A federal court in Oregon has ordered the U.S. Forest Service (USFS ) to halt a project that uses herbicides to control invasive plants in the Blue Mountain region. League of Wilderness Defenders/Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project v. USFS, No. 10-1397 (D. Or. 6/29/12). The court agreed with plaintiffs that the agency’s environmental impact statement (EIS ) failed to analyze the plan’s cumulative impacts and remanded the plan to USFS “for further analysis of cumulative impacts” consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in November 2010 seeking to halt the application of herbicides on 22,842 acres in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, including 875 acres designated for aerial spraying. The complaint raised concern about potential damage from herbicides to watersheds, riparian zones and streams. The court found that the agency’s EIS showed that it “misunderstands the purpose of the cumulative impacts analysis.” According to the court, the agency improperly started with the assertion that direct impacts from herbicide application would be minimal and then concluded that a thorough cumulative impacts analysis was therefore not necessary.