Washington, DC — The U.S. Forest Service lost 44 court cases during the
past two years in which the agency was found guilty of violating environmental
laws by a federal court, according to an internal memo released today by Public
Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The rate of adverse court findings
has been steadily growing with each passing year of the Bush Administration.

The list of 44 cases, covering the period 2003 and 2004 fiscal years, is limited
to cases where the court found both that the Forest Service violated the law
and that its position could not be “substantially justified.” In
those instances, the agency was ordered to pay the attorney fees of the environmental
group bringing the lawsuit. As a result, the Forest Service made payments to
environmental groups totaling $2.2 million over the last two years.

“More than once every two weeks, the Forest Service is found by a federal
judge to be violating the very laws it is supposed to be enforcing,” stated
PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “The Forest Service is becoming a rogue

The agency figures point to a growing rate of court rulings against the agency,
with 27 adverse rulings in FY 04 and 17 adverse rulings in FY 03. An online
search of federal court decisions in cases where the Forest Service was a defendant
showed 10 adverse rulings in 2002 and only 4 in 2001. The totals for prior years
were even smaller with the highest total for any year back to 1994 being 3 adverse

“More disturbing than the rulings is the fact that not a single Forest
Service manager has been disciplined or suffered any negative career consequences
for committing environmental violations,” added Ruch, noting that these
cases involve deliberate violations where a federal court has found that the
agency acted in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. “In
other words, the Forest Service rewards its line managers for breaking the law
– a posture not that distinct from the Mafia’s.”

The cases grow out of illegal logging operations, over-grazing violations and
mining claims within national forests. Every region in the country, except the
southeast, reported cases, with the most coming out of the region covering Idaho
and Montana, and the region covering Oregon and Washington.

The list of 44 cases understates the extent of violations by the Forest Service
in that it does not include cases that were settled by the agency in order to
avoid adverse rulings. Nor does it include cases that were thrown out on technical
grounds even though substantive environmental violations occurred.


the Forest Service summary of environmental cases it lost in FY 2003 and 2004

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