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Forest Service Land Management Litigation 1989–2002

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The land management decisions of the USDA Forest Service have been challenged and appealed frequently in federal court, and the agency believes such litigation constrains its professional expertise and frustrates effective forest management. This study provides the first complete picture of Forest Service land management litigation. Previous litigation studies limited their examination to published cases and did not analyze final case outcomes. We document the characteristics and final outcomes of 729 Forest Service management cases filed in federal court from 1989 to 2002. The Forest Service won 57.6% of cases, lost 21.3% of cases, and settled 17.6% of cases. It won 73% of the 575 cases decided by federal judges. Plaintiffs seeking less resource use lost more than half the cases they initiated, and plaintiffs seeking greater resource use lost more than two of every three cases they initiated. Most litigation (1) was for less resource use, (2) was based on the National Environmental Policy Act, and (3) challenged logging projects. The data indicate that the agency is less vulnerable in some types of cases and more vulnerable in others. This study provides policymakers, land managers, and stakeholders with accurate data that can help guide policy debate and choices.
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Keywords: Forest Service Litigation; federal court; forest policy; lawsuits; national forests

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-06-01

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.

    2016 Impact Factor: 1.675 (Rank 20/64 in forestry)

    Average time from submission to first decision: 39.6 days*
    June 1, 2016 to Feb. 28, 2017

    Also published by SAF:
    Forest Science
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