Forest Service Agrees to Consult with Fish and Wildlife Service regarding Project

In a stipulation signed by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, the Forest Service committed to engage in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the effects of the Upper Echo Lake Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project on the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog.  The agency also agreed to halt all on-the-ground Project activity through 2014, and not resume any activity until consultation is completed.  The stiplation includes the following statement:
"The Forest Service has ... determined that it will consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service regarding potential impacts to the frog, and has resolved to take no further on-the-ground activities on the project until consultation is complete and, in any event, no on-the-ground activities in 2014. In addition, the Forest Service is committed to taking no further activities without providing at least 35 days’ notice to Plaintiff."
The Forest Service's decision came at a time when Dr. Dennis Murphy was poised to move the court for an injunction.

As of this time, the Forest Service still has not addressed concerns regarding its compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  The agency conducted no environmental review, invoking a categorical exclusion from NEPA based on the premise that the Project would have no environmental impacts.  But this premise has proven false as impacts of phase one of the Project on wetlands are apparent and impacts to the endangered frog led the agency to consult.

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