Managing Forest Litigation

The Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project is a forest restoration project in Montana that was delayed for years by litigation.

More than 80 million acres of federal Forest Service land need to be treated with mechanical thinning, prescribed fire, replanting and erosion control techniques to help reduce wildfire damage while promoting healthier forests. Recognizing the need to improve forest restoration, Congress appropriated roughly $1.5 billion in the recent infrastructure legislation for forest treatments. But there is a long road from appropriating money to on-the-ground restoration, especially if litigation over forest projects is not addressed.

Tanglesome litigation can encourage conflict rather than collaboration when it comes to forest projects. The United States must untangle the complicated web of litigation over federal forest management activities to ensure the Forest Service and partners can conduct restoration work and reduce wildfire risk.

While litigation plays an important role in holding the government accountable to the people, research from PERC’s report Fix America’s Forests found it can also be disruptive and warp incentives in the forest management context. It can elevate relatively minor scientific or policy disagreements over broader considerations of forest health and the public interest. One group, for example, can sue to raise a mere technicality to hold up a widely supported forest project.

Read the full article at the Frontier Institute.

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