The U.S. Forest Service's supplemental environmental impact statement for a timber sale in the State of Washington was adequate, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The case involved the Forest Service's decision to add to the sale more than 1,000 trees that were damaged by a fire. Several environmental groups sued, claiming the supplemental EIS did not adequately cover the environmental issues associated with this additional sale. But the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Forest Service - comparing the circumstances to the Ninth Circuit's ruling in the San Joaquin Hills toll road case, which upheld the Department of Transportation's EIS in light of similar fire issues. The case began in 1993, when the decided to move forward with two timber sales totaling 8 million board-feet from about 1,500 acres within a 30,000-acre area in Colville National Forest. After the original EIS was prepared, a major fire occurred in the area, burning some 10,000 acres, including 133 acres in the proposed timber harvest area. Subsequently, the Forest Service proposed a timber salvage harvest of about 1,000 acres, including acreage overlapping with the original timber harvest. The Forest Service prepared a supplemental EIS on this are. As a result of the supplemental EIS, the Forest Service excluded some areas from the harvest - especially "unburned green timber located within the burn area ... for watershed protection." The Forest Service also modified some previously designated harvest units to protect streams. The Kettle Range Conservation Group, an advocacy organization, requested to meet with the Forest Service to "revisit and discuss" additional harvest areas, but the Forest Service rejected this request, saying the areas of concern specified by Kettle Range were outside the scope of the project. The Forest Service claimed that the fire did not change the situation in the areas Kettle Range was concerned with. Kettle Range and other environmental advocacy groups lost at the administrative level and then lost a summary judgment decision in federal district court. Kettle Range then appealed to the Ninth Circuit, claiming that the Forest Service's analysis in the supplement was inadequate. But the Ninth Circuit, in a brief decision, ruled in favor of the Forest Service. "The entire supplemental document is an evaluation of how the fire should affect the proposed sale, even though most of the sale area was unburned. Several changes ... are made within the sale area because of the fire that burned mostly outside the sale units. At best," the court continued, "the attack is an overly aggressive interference from the language the Forest Service used in rejecting their request." But, the court said, the Forest Service's rejection of the advocacy groups' position "cannot fairly be characterized as a failure to analyze it." The advocacy groups argued that the Forest Service should have considered whether the fire's impact outside the proposed area changed the desirability of harvesting trees inside the proposed harvest area. However, the Ninth Circuit ruled that "it is plain" that the Forest Service did so. The court relied somewhat on the San Joaquin Hills toll road case, Laguna Greenbelt Inc v. U.S. Department of Transportation, 42 F.3d 517 (1994), in making its decision. In that case, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Department of Transportation's environmental analysis after the Laguna Beach fire was adequate even though no supplement EIS was prepared because the agency "had relied on 'substantive technical expertise'" and because the initial EIS had taken potential fire impacts into account. Since, in this case, the Forest Service actually did prepare a supplemental EIS, the Ninth Circuit noted that the facts weaken the advocacy groups' case. The Case: Kettle Range Conservation Group v. U.S. Forest Service, No. 96-36100, 98 Daily Journal D.A.R. 7452 (filed July 6, 1998). The Lawyers: For Kettle Range Conservation Group: Todd True & Yuki Ishizuka, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, (206) xxx-xxxx. For U.S. Forest Service: Lisa Jones, Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., (202) xxx-xxxx.