Bureau of Land Management Sued Over Lost Antelope Project

Plaintiffs Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Cascadia Wildlands, Oregon Wild, and Soda Mountain Wilderness Council filed suit against the United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Thursday in the District of Oregon. The plaintiffs are challenging the defendant’s last administrative action in which they issued an environmental assessment, finding of no significant impact, and decision record for the Lost Antelope Vegetation Management Project.

The complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief includes alleged violations of the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA), the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

In late 2020, the complaint recounted, the defendant published a scoping notice of a Project that would harvest 1,300 acres of commercial timber called the Lost Antelope Project. Specifically, the project would produce management direction regarding “timber harvest in the Harvest Land Base, hazardous fuels reduction, and timber harvest in the Late Successional Reserve.”

The plaintiffs immediately began raising their concerns about the project through scoping comments and later through comments on the defendants’ then-published Lost Antelope Environmental Assessment, or EA. The plaintiffs spoke on the particular effects the project would have on fire hazards, northern spotted owls, and other species native to the Lost Antelope Project Area as a result of lost forest canopy from the project.

The defendant acknowledged in their final EA that the proposed logging would increase fire hazard in the area, but stated that they had sufficiently analyzed the risk. They published this EA along with a finding of no significant impact and a decision record authorizing the timber project, all of which the plaintiffs raised issue with.

The plaintiffs assert that the EA fails to identify and analyze the risk factors of the project, and also “does not identify the values at risk or disclose the impact of the increase in fire hazard and risk on nearby communities or neighboring landowners.” The BLM has a duty under the FLPMA to make sure projects conform to their Resource Management Plan, which the Lost Antelope Project is allegedly inconsistent with. Under NEPA, the defendant is required to take a comprehensive look at the environmental implications of their actions, which the plaintiffs argue has not been done.

The plaintiffs are seeking favorable judgment, for the court to vacate the most recent EA, finding of no significant impact, and decision record, an injunction preventing the defendant from continuing the project, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed necessary by the court.

The plaintiffs are represented by Crag Law Center and Cascadia Wildlands.