Minnesota Court Agrees with Conservationists

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Sportsmen and women are among the winners in a significant legal victory in a case regarding the Superior National Forest in northern Minnesota. The Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) joined with others including the Minnesota Forest Industries, Inc., Minnesota Timber Producers Association, All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, Blue Ribbon Coalition, Lake County and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to defend important habitat management projects being proposed by the US Forest Service.

In 2008 the Sierra Club and other preservationists had filed suit to halt implementation of the recently revised Forest Plan - claiming that because the Plan allowed habitat management projects adjacent to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) it would affect the wilderness character of the BWCAW and, therefore, should not move ahead.

Last November the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota granted RGS its request to appear as amicus curiae in support of the US Forest Service (USFS) and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in its defense against the litigation.

The preservationists argued that aspen clear-cutting and other logging, which will benefit ruffed grouse, American woodcock and other species of wildlife in the Superior National Forest, will negatively impact not only the Superior but the adjacent BWCAW.

Speaking on behalf of the RGS, attorney Ryan Woody of Hartford WI, provided arguments to the contrary and just this past week the court agreed, ruling in favor of the defense on all counts.

"The win on the SNF case is important because it involved the newly revised Forest Plan, which governs all future management and projects on the SNF for at least the next 15 years. In addition, I think the court's decision is important for future projects, because the court showed its respect for the Forest Service's expertise and reviewed the Plan under a very deferential approach. More specifically, Judge Schiltz decided to rely upon a Forest Service roads analysis even in the face of a more expensive and critical roads report submitted by the environmental groups. As far as RGS is concerned the newly affirmed plan should provide for important opportunities to actively manage forest conditions to improve early successional habitat for ruffed grouse and other species," Woody said.

"RGS Senior Regional Wildlife Biologist Gary Zimmer agreed with Woody's assessment, adding that "The Court decision supports the many years of planning conducted by the Forest Service when it revised the Superior National Forest Plan. After years of delays, it is now time to implement that revised Plan in this area."

"The ruling is not only a big win for the US Forest Service; it's a big win for sportsmen and other conservationists, as well as hunted and non-hunted species such as ruffed grouse, American woodcock, moose and other wildlife, including many species of neo-tropical songbirds that inhabit the Superior National Forest," said Dr. Michael Zagata, RGS CEO and Executive Director.

Established in 1961, the Ruffed Grouse Society is the one international wildlife conservation organization dedicated to promoting conditions suitable for ruffed grouse, American woodcock and related wildlife to sustain our sport hunting tradition and outdoor heritage

Further information on the RGS, its mission, management projects and membership can be found on the web at: www.ruffedgrousesociety.org.