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Appeals Court Affirms Fee Award in Jackson Forest Lawsuit

Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest

September 8, 2004       Press Release      For Immediate Release

Contact Vince Taylor, Ph.D.  (707) 937-3001

In a decision issued on September 4, 2004, the First District California Court of Appeals affirmed the award of legal fees to the Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest for a suit brought against the California Department of Forestry in June 2000.

As a result of losing the appeal, CDF will owe the Campaign about $119,000 including $15,000 in interest. This latest fee award is in addition to the $201,000 that the state has already paid for costs related to the Campaign's later challenge to the environmental document for Jackson Forest.

Additional payments by CDF are still pending for other Campaign legal actions.  Altogether, the state's payments related to its unsuccessful defense of its management of Jackson State Forest may eventually total around $350,000.

The suit at issue in the appeal stopped several logging plans filed in 2001 and forced CDF to prepare a new management plan and environmental documents for Jackson State Forest. A second lawsuit by the Campaign resulted in the court declaring the new management plan and environmental report legally invalid in 2003. Logging operations in Jackson State Forest have not resumed to date.

The Appeals Court rejected every contention made by CDF in its appeal, often quite pointedly, and it strongly affirmed the public benefits of the Campaign's legal actions.

Vince Taylor, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Campaign, commented, "This latest court decision adds to the extensive documentation of the malfeasance of CDF and its efforts to evade the law in managing Jackson State Forest. It strongly affirms the need for the management reforms contained in SB 1648, Senator Chesbro's state forest reform bill."

In responding to CDF's contention that the Campaign's lawsuit had not produced any significant public benefit, the court said:

In sum, defendants are obligated to manage the Jackson State Forest according to current practices which achieve “maximum sustained production of high quality forest products while giving consideration to values relating to recreation, watershed, wildlife, range and forage, fisheries, and aesthetic enjoyment.” (§ 4639.) Without question, this obligation is an important right affecting the public interest.

This right was enforced by the Campaign. Before the Campaign secured a preliminary injunction and settlement agreement preventing them from going forward, defendants were on the verge of harvesting timber in the Jackson State Forest under a management plan that did not, according to defendants’ own policies, reflect the most current views of proper forest management… At the end of the day, the settlement reached between the Campaign and defendants ensured that defendants would manage the forest properly by applying an updated management plan to all currently contemplated and future timber harvests. [p. 7]

CDF and the Board of Forestry sought to moot the suit, after logging was enjoined, by deleting the requirement for a "current management plan" from the policies of the Board of Forestry governing state forests. The Court of Appeals firmly rejected this as a viable legal maneuver and suggested that it viewed this tactic as a ethically questionable:

We reject defendants’ argument that, because they deleted the word “current” from their policy regarding periodic review of management plans, the Campaign did not actually enforce an important right. Defendants seem to suggest that, in changing the wording of this policy, they have somehow eliminated the public’s right to have state forests operated under current forest management principles. This argument is specious in the extreme. Without considering the propriety of defendants’ actions in altering the text of this policy mid-way through this controversy, it is simply not the case that defendants may operate state forests under outdated management plans. (Emphasis added.) … Defendants continue to have an obligation to apply current management principles to their operation of state forests. This important obligation was enforced in the Campaign’s action. [p. 7]

The Court firmly rejected CDF's contention made in its briefs but also in many public statements that current law requires it to manage Jackson Forest for maximum timber production and that nothing can legally interfere with this obligation:

We are disturbed by defendants’ failure to acknowledge that, in managing the state forests, they must take into account uses of these forests for purposes other than timber harvesting. For example, defendants describe the Legislature as intending that the “State Forests be (primarily) utilized for “. . . timber production for research and demonstration purposes.” … At no point in their opening brief, do defendants even mention section 4639, although this section makes clear that defendants must accomplish the “maximum sustained production of high quality forest products while giving consideration to values relating to recreation, watershed, wildlife, range and forage, fisheries, and aesthetic enjoyment.” (§ 4639) Defendants refer to section 4639 only once in their reply brief and, remarkably, provide this court with a quote from it that excludes the language “while giving consideration to values relating to recreation, watershed, wildlife, range and forage, fisheries, and aesthetic enjoyment.” In so doing, defendants seem to suggest that their obligation to manage the state forests is primarily an obligation to bring about the maximum timber harvest and that any delay or hindrance to this goal defeats the legislature's purpose in establishing the state forest system. This suggestion, which we reject, can only be made by ignoring the full extent of defendants’ management obligation. (Emphases added.) [Footnote 3, p. 6]

Finally, the Court rejected CDF's oft-heard contention that the Campaign was responsible for causing it severe financial harm:  

In making this argument below, defendants put forward evidence in the form of declarations by its employees to the effect because of its agreement to temporarily discontinue harvesting timber in the Jackson State Forest, defendants borrowed $3 million from the state’s General Fund, had a $9 million shortfall in budget and were forced to cut back on a variety of programs and personnel.

The most basic problem with defendants’ argument is that it suffers from a myopic view of what caused these budgetary shortfalls. The Campaign’s effort to stop defendants from harvesting timber without regard to their management obligations did not “cost” defendants these monies. Rather, defendants’ inability to harvest timber in the Jackson State Forest was a result of their failure to manage the forest in accordance with currently mandated management practices. (Emphasis added.) [p. 11]

The text of the decision is at :