April 25, 2023

Earthrise Travels to San Francisco in May to Argue the Yosemite Logging case before the Ninth Circuit

Earthrise Clinical Professor Tom Buchele, representing the Earth Island Institute, will argue before the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco on May 9th, urging them to impose a preliminary injunction on the National Park Service’s decision to log extensively within Yosemite National Park as part of its misguided effort to reduce the severity of future wildfires by logging large trees. 

Tom will be joined by Earthrise Legal Fellow Haley Nicholson and recent Earthrise alum and previous Legal Fellow, Bridgett Chevallier, who worked on the case during her Earthrise fellowship.

Earthrise was first approached about the Park Service’s logging in May of 2022 when our client saw logging trucks in the Yosemite Valley. Although the Park Service was not forthcoming about the specifics of its logging, Earthrise summer interns Lydia Dexter, Casey Bage, Devon Guyer, and Greg Allen were able to learn enough details for us to determine that the Park Service’s actions violated NEPA and the Organic Act. They are using a categorical exclusion to approve site-specific actions, with no publicly available analysis of the logging’s impacts. Moreover, the most recent science indicates that logging large trees to reduce the severity of future wildfires does not work, can actually make such fires worse, and causes unnecessary harm to important wildlife habitat. Such ineffective efforts distract from the actions the Forest Service could be taking to harden the areas around structures and to modify those structures to reduce their flammability.

Despite this science and some favorable, recent Ninth Circuit case law, the district court denied our motion for a preliminary injunction in September. We immediately appealed. While that appeal has been pending, record snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has halted the Park Service’s logging.