Supreme Court Rules on Forest Roads Regulations
On March 20, the Supreme Court rule to uphold the Environmental Protection Agency’s(EPA) long standing policy to not require Clean Water Act permits on forest roads.
The ruling confirms that family forest owners with runoff from forest roads are not required to do more than the current approach of using best management practices (voluntary in some states, mandatory in others) to protect water quality.
“The court’s decision is a positive development for family forest owners, particularly those certified to the American Tree Farm System® (ATFS) standards,” says Tom Martin, President and CEO, American Forest Foundation (AFF). “ATFS certified family forest owners already take significant steps to protect water quality in their forests by implementing best management practices, as required in the ATFS Standards of Sustainability.”
“With 25 percent of our fresh water coming from private forests, it’s vital that we make sure we’re taking the right approach to help family forest owners protect water quality on their land,” Martin says. “voluntary incentive-based approaches and best management practices are proven to protect water quality, but these approaches also make sure forest owners can afford to keep their forests as forests.”
While the Supreme Court’s decision is a win for family forest owners because it avoids a potentially expensive and lengthy permitting process, the issue is likely not over. Late last year, EPA changed its policy on forest roads just prior to the Supreme Court’s review of the case. EPA’s newest policy moved forestry out of the “industrial activity” category to help forest owners avoid the permitting requirement. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s ruling was limited to EPA’s previous policy, and lawsuits have already been filed against the new policy.
AFF will continue to support voluntary-based approaches to protect water qualityand ensure policy approaches that are affordable and practical for family forest owners.