The California Supreme Court has accepted for review two land use cases involving local and regional restrictions on logging. The state high court also dismissed a case involving attorneys’ fees in a California Environmental Quality Act case.

The state high court voted unanimously to review a Sixth District Court of Appeal ruling that local governments may not regulate the location of timber harvests. The court’s acceptance of the case was somewhat expected because the appellate court’s decision was directly at odds with a 1995 First District ruling. In the earlier case, the court ruled that local governments may regulate the location of timber operations, but not the method of logging. Big Creek Lumber Co. v. County of San Mateo, 31 Cal.App.4th 418. In the recent case, the Sixth District determined that under the state Forest Practices Act, the phrase “conduct of timber operations,” covered both the location and manner of logging (see CP&DR Legal Digest, April 2004).

The case is Big Creek Lumber v. Santa Cruz, No. S123659.

The other case accepted by the state high court involves a timber harvest plan in the privately owned portion of the Headwaters Forest. Pacific Lumber Company received approval for the plan from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. But the state Water Resources Control Board then ordered Pacific Lumber to monitor water quality in the Elk River. Pacific Lumber argued that the state water board had no say in the matter, but the First District Court of Appeal ruled that state and regional water boards do have authority to enforce water quality protection measures against a timber company.

Again, the state Supreme Court voted unanimously to review the case, which is Pacific Lumber Company v. California State Water Resources, No S124464.

The case that the state Supreme Court dismissed is Vedanta Society v. California Quartet, No. S112816. It involved responsibility for attorneys’ fees in a case where an appellate court ruled that a 2-2 decision by a Board of Supervisors was not adequate to certify an environmental impact report. The original case was Vedanta Society of So. California v. California Quartet, Ltd., (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 517 (see CP&DR Legal Digest, January 2001). More recently, some of the same parties were involved in a case involving what belongs in the administrative record in a CEQA case. County of Orange v. Superior Court, 113 Cal.App.4th 1 (see CP&DR Legal Digest, December 2003).

But in late May, the six parties in the multi-pronged litigation agreed to a settlement that ended the court battles. At issue was development of 222 acres in Orange County’s Trabuco Canyon, near the Ramakrishna Monastery. Under the settlement, the developer agreed to reduce the number of homes from 299 to 266, permanently protect a 300-foot-wide wildlife corridor, and construct a berm that screens the 100-year-old monastery from the new houses.