Ohio Forestry Association, Inc. v. Sierra Club

523 U.S. 726 (1998)


The Sierra Club (P) challenges the lawfulness of a federal land and resource management plan adopted by the United States Forest Service (D) for Ohio's Wayne National Forest on the ground that the plan permits too much logging and too much clearcutting. The NFMA requires D to 'develop, maintain, and, as appropriate, revise land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest System. D developed a plan for the Wayne National Forest located in southern Ohio. The Plan permits logging to take place on 126,000 (197 sq. mi.) of the federally owned acres. Although the Plan sets logging goals, selects the areas of the forest that are suited to timber production and determines which 'probable methods of timber harvest' are appropriate, it does not itself authorize the cutting of any trees. Before D can permit the logging, it must: (a) propose a specific area in which logging will take place and the harvesting methods to be used, (b) ensure that the project is consistent with the Plan, (c) provide those affected by proposed logging notice and an opportunity to be heard, (d) conduct an environmental analysis pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), and (e) subsequently make a final decision to permit logging, which affected persons may challenge in an administrative appeals process and court. P objected to the plan and pursued various administrative remedies. P then brought this lawsuit in federal court, initially against D. The Ohio Forestry Association (D1), some of whose members harvest timber from the Wayne National Forest or process wood products obtained from the forest, later intervened as a defendant. P's complaint states that in directing or permitting below-cost timber sales accomplished by means of clearcutting' violated various laws including the NFMA, the NEPA, and the Administrative Procedure Act; that the 'defendants' actions in directing or permitting below-cost timber sales in the Wayne [National Forest] under the plan violate [their] duties as public trustees.' It states that Ds followed regulations that failed properly to identify 'economically unsuitable lands.' The Complaint requests as relief: (a) a declaration that the Plan 'is unlawful as are the below-cost timber sales and timbering, including clearcutting, authorized by the plan,' (b) an 'injunction prohibiting the defendants from permitting or directing further timber harvest and/or below-cost timber sales' pending Plan revision, (c) costs and attorney's fees, and (d) 'such other further relief as may be appropriate.' The District Court ruled for Ds. P appealed. The court of appeals held the controversy was ripe for review and held that the plan violated NFMA and reversed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.