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E-M:/ ***Important Legal Victory for Public Participation in ForestManagement***

Enviro-Mich message from Billy Stern <billysun@chorus.net>

***Important Legal Victory for Public Participation in Forest Management***

Heartwood Wins Victory for Public Participation in National Forest Management
Sets precedent for entire country on projects previously barred from appeal!

Jim Bensman, 618-259-3642
Alison Cochran, 812-337-8898
Matt Kenna, 970-385-6941


Legal Victory for Public Participation in Forest Management

For Immediate Release:

American citizens gained a greater voice in the management of their
publicly owned forests yesterday as an agreement was reached in a
lawsuit brought against the U.S. Forest Service by Heartwood, a
grassroots organization working to protect Eastern Forests, and two
of its staff members. In a settlement agreement that was signed today
by Judge James L. Foreman of the United States District Court for the
Southern District of Illinois, the Forest Service has agreed to
provide the public the right to comment on, and appeal projects
including prescribed burning, Off-Highway-Vehicle (OHV) trails,
creating permanent forest openings, and many other projects that
implement provisions of official Forest Management Plans.

Until this settlement, filing a lawsuit was the only remedy available
to a person who questioned the Forest Service's judgment with regard
to these projects, and the complexities and expense of such lawsuits
have prevented many people from participating in these decisions.

This is not the first time that Heartwood's Forest Watch staff
members, Jim Bensman and Mark Donham, along with attorney Matt Kenna,
from Durango, Colorado, have challenged Forest Service's nationwide
policies. Almost a year ago, these two self-taught legal beagles,
working with Kenna, won a similar victory when a lawsuit they filed
ended in a nationwide injunction against the Forest Service for
improperly excluding hundreds of timber sales from public comment and
environmental assessment under a loophole known as "categorical

"This settlement has an even greater potential for protecting
National Forests from inappropriate management decisions than last
year's ruling did," said Bensman. "There are people all across the
country who are concerned about logging, burning, and OHVs on their
National Forests, and this settlement insures them the opportunity to
express that concern."

Prescribed burning, a management strategy where the Forest Service
sets fires intentionally, purportedly to limit the accumulation of
"fuel load" (downed dry wood), has become increasingly controversial
this summer with the giant fires threatening forests throughout the
Western United States. Planned fires, like the one set by the Park
Service in Los Alamos, New Mexico, have escaped containment to
destroy homes, threaten lives, and leave thousands of acres of forest
charred. Likewise, wide spread concern has been expressed about the
erosion, water contamination and air and noise pollution caused by

Heartwood believes that better decisions are made about the
management of public lands when the public is involved. In the ten
years of their existence they have helped stop hundreds of timber
sales on National Forests by teaching people how to use processes
like the ones that have been secured by this settlement.

"People care about their forests," says Alison Cochran, Executive
Director of Heartwood, "and their motivation comes from their concern
for the quality of their air and water, the health of their
communities and the protection of forests for future generations."


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