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Press Release

U.S. Forest Service Wins Civil Case Supporting Forest Restoration Projects in the Fremont-Winema National Forest

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Oregon

MEDFORD, Ore.—The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Oregon announced today that an order granting summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Forest Service was entered in a civil case challenging the agency’s commercial thinning of timber conducted as part of forest restoration efforts in the Fremont-Winema National Forest.

In December 2021 and May 2022, after an environmental effects review and public outreach, the Forest Service approved three restoration projects covering more than 91,000 acres in the Fremont-Winema National Forest designed to reduce the risk of severe wildfire in dry forestlands and improve degraded forest health and habitats. To achieve the agency’s restoration goals, it proposed various activities in the three projects including, but not limited to, small tree thinning, prescribed burning, juniper cutting, meadow enhancement, stream restoration, and the commercial sale of select forest products. 

As part of each of the three restoration projects, the Forest Service approved between 3,000 and 16,000 acres of commercial thinning. Commercial and non-commercial thinning are longstanding timber management tools the Forest Service uses to improve timber stand growth and reduce fire hazard through the removal of select trees in overly dense and deteriorated stands. The Fremont-Winema National Forest has recently suffered from major wildfires including the 400,000-acre Bootleg Fire in 2021.

On July 12, 2022, Oregon Wild and WildEarth Guardians, two non-profit corporations, brought suit challenging the Forest Service’s use of commercial thinning as part of the restoration projects, alleging violations of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

On August 4, 2023, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. McShane issued a summary judgment order concluding that the Forest Service had not in fact violated APA or NEPA. The court found the Forest Service’s use of NEPA procedures to approve the projects was lawful and reasonably determined.

The U.S. Forest Service was represented in this matter by Sean E. Martin, Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Oregon.

Updated August 10, 2023