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Twenty Years of Forest Service Land Management Litigation

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This study provides a comprehensive analysis of USDA Forest Service litigation from 1989 to 2008. Using a census and improved analyses, we document the final outcome of the 1,125 land management cases filed in federal court. The Forest Service won 53.8% of these cases, lost 23.3%, and settled 22.9%. It won 64.0% of the 669 cases decided by a judge based on cases' merits. The agency was more likely to lose and settle cases during the last 6 years; the number of cases initiated during this time varied greatly. The Pacific Northwest region along with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had the most frequent occurrence of cases. Litigants generally challenged vegetative management (e.g., logging) projects, most often by alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act. The results document the continued influence of the legal system on national forest management and describe the complexity of this litigation.
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Keywords: USDA Forest Service; federal courts; land management; litigation; national forests

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2014-01-01

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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