Sierra Club v. Espy
38 F.3d 792 (5th Cir. 1994)

  • The US Forest Service opened up some land in a National Forest in Texas to clearcutting.
    • Technically, the term is even-aged management, because after the clearcutting is done, all the trees that regrow will be the same age.
  • Sierra Club sued for an injunction.
    • Sierra Club argued that the Forest Service's even-aged management plan was a violation of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA)(16 U.S.C. 1604), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
      • Specifically, the Sierra Club argued that there was an endangered woodpecker that needed old growth forest for habitat.
    • Sierra Club argued that even-aged management should only be done in exceptional circumstances, and this wasn't an exceptional circumstance.
  • The Trial Court issued a preliminary injunction. The Forest Service appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that NFMA restricts even-aged management except in exceptional circumstances.
      • The Court noted that NFMA only allows even-aged management when "such cuts are carried out in a manner consistent with the protection of the soil, watershed, wildlife, recreation, and esthetic resources and the regeneration of the timber resource."
    • The Court based their ruling on the idea that NFMA mandates biodiversity, and even-aged management is contrary to biodiversity.
  • The Appellate Court reversed and denied the injunction.
    • The Appellate Court found that the purpose of NFMA was to be a balancing act between competing forest management priorities, including a commitment to biodiversity.
    • The Court found that in some cases, even-aged management is the best solution to protecting biodiversity while also meeting the other objectives of NFMA.
      • The Court noted that while some species (like woodpeckers) will suffer when a forest is clearcut, other species will flourish (ones that prefer grass and light over trees and shade).
    • The Court found that the Forest Service was the best judge of what would best protect the biodiversity mandated by NFMA, so the Court should defer to Forest Service judgment.
      • See Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council (467 U.S. 837 (1984)).