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October 08, 2012

Court clears way for Aspen tree-cutting

An #Aspen #Skiing Co. plan to cut trees for a new #Snowmass ski run has now cleared a court hurdle.

In a 20-page decision, U.S. District Judge James Boasberg dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Wyoming-based environmental group called the Ark Initiative. In doing so, the judge also offered a more general lesson for environmental advocates: get involved early in administrative proceedings.

The Ark Initiative and its founder Donald Duerr sued to stop tree-cutting underway for the new Colorado ski run, contending that the parcel where the trees grow should be designated “roadless" and therefore off-limits to timber cutting.

The Forest Service denied the request, explaining its reasoning in two short letters,and the Ark Initiative complained the agency did not adequately explain the denial.

The roadless area inventory for Colorado excluded lands within ski area permitted boundaries. The Forest Service reasoned that even if the affected area on Burnt Mountain had roadless characteristics, the parcel is inside Snowmass Ski Area.

Judge Boasberg concluded "it was not arbitrary and capricious" for the Forest Service to read rules governing roadless areas as excluding the Burnt Mountain parcel. And now, listen up for the broader lesson:

"The Colorado Roadless Rule was not off-the-cuff rulemaking (but) the result of extensive public involvement. More than 310,000 public comments, over a 6-year period, were reviewed and considered in the development of the final rule.Plaintiffs chose not to comment on the Rule and thus cannot challenge it now. If Plaintiffs wanted roadless designations in ski areas, they should have participated in the rulemaking."




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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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