Sequoia ForestKeeper® Litigation

Sequoia ForestKeeper believes that nature should be protected by Agencies because it is their mandate and the right thing to do. Unfortunately, this idealism doesn't always match the reality of short-sighted policies steeped in greed. This page discusses to our current and past legal challenges.


On 25 January 2022, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Sequoia ForestKeeper, Unite the Parks, and John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute (Environmental Advocates) on two counts in their case filed to protect the Endangered Southern Sierra Nevada Pacific Fisher (SSN fisher) from loss of habitat due to dozens of commercial timber sales in remaining suitable SSN fisher habitat. On 12 January 2022, the court heard oral arguments on the requested Preliminary Injunction to stop dozens of U.S. Forest Service (USFS) logging projects in Sequoia and Sierra National Forests that have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in SSN fisher habitat. Arguments were skillfully presented by Stanford Law Clinic law students Christopher A. Meyer and Sidni McKenzi Frederick, as well as attorney René Voss on behalf of the Environmental Advocates. U.S. Department of Justice attorney, Rebecca Jaffe, argued before the Ninth Circuit Panel of Judges on behalf of the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The USFS and FWS used 2010 survey data on the Fisher carrying capacity of that Fisher habitat, which Fisher scientists determined could only support a maximum of about 300 individual Fishers (an average of 256 individual fisher), when the Fishers have since been listed as endangered by the USFWS, and the USFS acknowledges that 55 percent of that SSN fisher habitat has since been altered by the drought and wildfires, so the current carrying capacity for Fishers in that SSN fisher habitat can logically be presumed to be capable of sustaining fewer than half of the number of Fishers, but the agencies are continuing to approve logging projects in Fisher habitat, albeit for public safety, even though the agencies are illegally relying on old survey data. 
Surprisingly, the court took only twelve days to deliver its unpublished Memorandum of Decision: “we vacate the district court’s denial of a preliminary injunction on Unite the Parks’ claim that FWS violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by not using raw post-2020-wildfire vegetation data to estimate the current Sierra Nevada fisher population before issuing a biological opinion (2021 BiOp). We remand this issue to the district court for further proceedings. Because additional analysis of this ESA issue may affect the propriety of a preliminary injunction under the National Environment Policy Act (NEPA), we also vacate the district court’s denial of such a preliminary injunction, and we remand this issue to the district court for further proceedings.”
On 31 January 2022, Carmen Kohlruss of The Fresno Bee published a clear and well-researched description of the ruling, which included a video description of the conditions of the forest by Forest Ecologist Dr. Chad Hanson.
On 31 January 2022, Plateau Roadside Hazard Tree Project Settlement – The Department of Justice and our attorneys reached a settlement of the Plateau case, which was approved by the U.S. Forest Service. Chapter member, Dr. Ed Royce, who gave expert witness testimony regarding the logging that was being done before the snows fell, will be paid for his time in this regard, because the Royce declaration aimed to show “the low probability that a tree could hit a target at such a distance”, which serves to undermine the correctness of the Forest Service’s decision.
Tree die-off (Joey, Summit, Bald Mountain Logging) Significant New Circumstances Litigation

On 12 December 2016 Sequoia ForestKeeper filed a Complaint seeking a declaration that the Forest Service has violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by proceeding with implementation of the Joey, Summit CE, and, Bald Mountain projects without analyzing significant new circumstances regarding the recent drought-related, massive tree die-off in the Sierra Nevada, which has significantly changed forest conditions and habitat baselines for fishers, owls, and goshawks in each of the project areas, and along with project activities, will affect the fishers, owls, and goshawks in a manner and to an extent the Forest Service has not previously considered in its NEPA analyses.

The Summit project has now been abandoned as a timber sale by the Forest Service and a Decision Memo was issued to revamp the project as a non-commercial hazard project on 700 acres in the Wildland Urban Interface of Alta Sierra. The Forest Service does not anticipate any other operations on Summit in 2018.

The Joey Project could begin on June 30, 2018, at the earliest, based on wildlife nesting limited operating periods. However, our attorney was informed by the Justice Department and timber industry attorneys that no work would be done on the Joey Project in 2018. The Joey Project was stopped on appeal by one of our founding members for the first time in 1996 when the project was called the Salmon Thinning Timber Sale. This project has been repeatedly renamed and reintroduced as the Kangaroo Thinning Timber Sale before it became the Joey Project (i.e. offspring of Kangaroo).

The Bald Mountain Project could potentially start after the Mountain Yellow-legged Frog Limited Operating Period ends on June 15. However, our attorney was informed by the Justice Department and timber industry attorneys that no work would be done on the Bald Mountain Project in 2018.

Our Attorney will file a joint status report to the court and request the court to delay briefing on this Significant New Circumstances Case until the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has responded to our appeal of the Frog-Rancheria case.

Frog-Rancheria logging litigation

For Rancheria, we forced the Forest Service to take a hard look at the impacts to Pacific fisher from the tree die-off and changed circumstances, and they agreed that there could be significant cumulative impacts, if the project proceeded without further re-analysis. Although the Forest Service reached their conclusion without an order from the court, the goal has been realized, and the Forest Service will prepare a supplemental Environmental Assessment (EA). The Rancheria Project was known as the Sawmill Fuels Reduction Project when our first Programs Director took her first field trip into the forest.

The court ruled against our claims in the Frog Project case. Therefore, the logging of roughly 147 of about 850 remaining acres (Frog II) has occurred without a full re-analysis of effects to the Pacific fisher. The Frog Timber sale is the same timber sale that was stopped in 2006 when the court ruled in our favor against the illegal and incomprehensible 2004 Giant Sequoia National Monument Management Plan.

On 25 January 2018, with pro bono help from the law firm of Paul Hasting, we filed our opening brief of an appeal of the Frog II Project to the 9th Circuit, regarding the remaining acreage not yet logged, but we aren’t likely to see results from that appeal until the summer of 2018.

On 27 February 2018, The Forest Service offered for sale the Frog II Tiber Sale requesting sealed bids by 30 March 2018 for 113,000 cubic feet of trees.

Bull Run Logging Litigation

On September 29, 2017, SFK and our partner, the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute filed a complaint against the Bull Run Project decision in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Fresno Division. We then filed a motion for preliminary injunction to halt implementation of the project for 2017, which the court denied on December 5, 2017. Most logging will not occur until the spring of 2018. On 6 April 2018, our reply brief was filed and the Forest Service and Intervenors get their replies, and then our hearing in this case is scheduled for 29 May 2018, although Judge O’Neill has ever yet had a hearing and he will likely just rule on the evidence.

Spear Creek Logging Litigation

On March 9, 2018, with our partner, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute, we filed our complaint against the Spear Creek Project in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, Fresno Division. The Spear Creek Project would remove 6.94 Million Board Feet of trees. Judge O’Neill assigned the case to himself. In essence, what this means is that whatever O’Neill decides regarding Bull Run will translate to Spear Creek.