West Virginia Div. of Izaak Walton League of America, Inc. v. Butz
(The Monongahela Case)
522 F.2d 945 (4th Cir. 1975)
- The US Forest Service entered
into some contracts with timber companies to harvest timber in the
Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.
- The contracts allowed the
clearcutting of forests, which meant that 100% of the trees would be cut
- Clearcutting is economically
efficient, but increases the risk of fires, harms species, and causes
erosion and water pollution problems.
- Environmental groups (led by
IWLA) sued for an injunction.
- IWLA argued that the sale
violated the Organic Act of 1897
(16 U.S.C. §476), because
it allowed for the cutting of trees that were not dead, and did not
require the individual marking of trees.
- The timber industry argued
that following the exact wording of §476 would make it economically impossible to harvest trees.
- Marking every single tree
would be a very labor-intensive process.
- The Trial Court found for IWLA
and issued an injunction. The Forest Service appealed.
- The Appellate Court affirmed.
- The Appellate Court read the
plain language of §476, which
said that only "dead, mature, or large growth" trees could be
cut, and that every tree must be "marked and designated."
- The Forest Service
suggested alternate meanings for "mature" and "large
growth" but the Court didn't buy it.
- The Court also looked to the
legislative history of §476 and
found that Congress' primary purpose was to preserve the National
Forests, not to sell timber.
- The Forest Service argued
that their role had changed from custodian to production agency, but the
Court found that didn't change the meaning of §476.
- The Court looked to Wilderness
Society v. Morton (479 F.2d 842
(1973)) and noted that the judiciary cannot rewrite old Statutes that
have become anachronistic with respect to current technology.
- The Court suggested that if
the Forest Service and the timber industry didn't like it, they should
get Congress to change the law.
- After this decision, Congress
repealed §476 and replaced it with
the National Forest Management Act (NFMA)(16