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Common sense has finally prevailed in one of the battles between logging interests and environmental groups.
Wednesday, in a 7-1 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ended a seven-year battle, reversing a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision and affirming Oregon’s forest management practices.
The lawsuit, originally brought against the State of Oregon by the Portland-based Northwest Environmental Defense Center, argued that storm runoff from forest roads needed Clean Water Act permits the same as runoff from factories and feedlots.
The court noted that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not require stormwater discharges for water runoff from logging roads and is not requesting authority to regulate water runoff.
We all want clean water and pristine forests. However, Oregon also needs jobs. For far too long, environmental groups have hamstrung the logging industry with lawsuit after lawsuit. Hopefully the tide is finally turning, and Oregon will be allowed to strike a responsible balance between environmental needs and the economy.
Oregon’s Forest Practices Act, which has governed forest harvesting operations in the state since the 1970s, has long been considered the environmental standard in the industry.
The Supreme Court decision is a huge win for the forest industry. Even though it is unlikely to dramatically increase timber harvests or even prevent future lawsuits, the decision clearly shows that not only is Oregon acting responsibly, it is a leader in the field.
Although Northwest Environmental Defense Center says that they intend to continue to fight the ruling, the only recourse they have remaining is to attempt to change EPA policy.
That looks unlikely as the EPA issued a ruling in 2012 that clearly states that it would not regulate logging roads as it does industrial “point” sources.
In fact, the EPA joined forces with both the State of Oregon and the timber industry during testimony on the case.
The court noted that Congress has directed the EPA to work with other states “to alleviate stormwater pollution by developing the precise kind of best management practices Oregon has established here.”
Although it is just one ruling in a long string of lawsuits, the ruling is a clear victory for the timber industry. Here’s hoping that common sense will continue to prevail in the future and the state will not have to go through a seven-year battle to prove that Oregon is already ahead of the curve.