Forest Service Agrees to Initiate Consultation regarding Fuels Reduction Project at Upper Echo Lake south of Lake Tahoe and Halt Activity Pending Consultation

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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California recently signed an order on a stipulation (pdf) in Murphy v. United States Forest Service that bars the Forest Service from proceeding with implementation of the Upper Echo Lake Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project in 2014 (Project), and requires the Forest Service to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the effects of the Project on the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) before proceeding further with the Project.

The Forest Service approved the Upper Echo Lake Hazardous Fuel Reduction Project in 2012 and began to implement the Project in fall 2013 over the objections of conservation biologist Dr. Dennis Murphy.  On behalf of Dr. Murphy, Nossaman filed an action challenging the Project in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.  In October and November 2013, the Forest Service implemented the first phase of the Project, cutting trees and brush and creating slash piles consisting of the cut materials.

The agency invoked a categorical exclusion to avoid conducting environmental review of the Project under the National Environmental Policy Act, and until recently refused to evaluate the effects of the Project on the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog as required by the Endangered Species Act.  Information regarding the deleterious impacts of the Project is available here.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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