The U. S. Forest Service summarily closed 90% of the lawful, user-created motorized routes in Tahoe National Forest, thereby constructing a virtual roadblock to keep all but the most able-bodied away from the forest’s aesthetic and recreational opportunities. By its decision denying access, the Forest Service showed its true colors and, in the process, violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
Representing individuals who enjoy the wild and scenic pleasures afforded by Tahoe National Forest, PLF challenged the Forest Service’s administrative action in federal district court. Although the lower court ruled against us, we appealed, and today filed our opening brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in the case of Friends of Tahoe Access v. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In the opening brief, we argue that The National Environmental Policy Act was intended to protect the human environment – not to keep humans out of the environment. By summarily closing all but 10% of the user-created motorized routes, the Forest Service decided that keeping humans out was more important than inviting them in. In so doing, the Forest Service signaled its intention to join the ranks of those who wish to protect the environment for the environment’s sake, rather than to respect and conserve our natural resources for humans’ sake. That radical mindset is inimical to the National Environmental Policy Act, which seeks not to make environmental protection an infallible dogma by which to control human activity but, rather, to provide a method of preserving the environment for the purpose of enhancing human health and welfare. When environmental considerations trump all others, everyone suffers – socially, politically, and economically. That is not why Congress passed laws protecting our environment.
Sadly, the Forest Service has come to the point where human values are increasingly irrelevant, and public policy decisions are offered as sacrifices on the altar of keeping our environment free from us, rather than encouraging healthy human interaction with the environment. As the Ninth Circuit recently observed, the National Environmental Policy Act declares a national policy to “create and maintain conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony.” PLF’s lawsuit seeks to remind the Forest Service of that overarching public policy goal.
Learn more about this case, Friends of Tahoe Forest Access v. U.S. Department of Agriculture at the PLF Case Summary Page