What happens after the appeal deadline has passed
So what’s next, now that the deadline has passed to appeal the White River National Forest plan?
First, a 20-day period goes into effect in which parties that didn’t appeal but want to be involved in discussions involving appeal points can make their interest known.
The appeals themselves must be acted on within 160 days. However, Dan Hormaechea, the WRNF’s planning staff officer, said action could take longer than that if discussions are ongoing between the Forest Service and the appellant to resolve the issues at hand.
While an appeal theoretically could challenge the entire forest plan, Hormaechea said it would not be likely to succeed. Such an appeal assumes the Forest Service mishandled the entire planning process.
Instead, substantive appeals more often target specific issues, attempting to show specifically where procedures and laws weren’t followed, and what remedies should be required.
Mere opinions that a plan is wrong are apt to be discarded as frivolous, and dismissed at the outset, Hormaechea said.
It’s up to the Forest Service to address each point raised in an appeal.
An appeal-reviewing officer at the agency’s Washington office evaluates the matter, and then an appeal-deciding officer within the agency makes a final determination.
That officer can go in several directions. Options include upholding the specific portion of the plan as it stands, dismissing that portion of the plan, having the WRNF reconsider certain issues raised in the appeal, or ordering the WRNF to implement the portion of the plan under certain conditions.
The forest plan as a whole remains in effect during an appeal, as does the portion being appealed. It is possible for a judge to be asked to stay part of a forest plan, but that would be an extreme action requiring proof that the planning process was “pretty broken,” said Hormaechea. He doesn’t think the grounds exist for such action.
The Forest Service’s decisions on appeals are themselves subject to court review if an appellant chooses to take the matter further.
Normally, Hormaechea said, appellants and the Forest Service go through an appeal resolution process, attempting to resolve individual concerns or an entire appeal.
A lot of the process just involves clarifying what is contained in the plan, he said.
“These documents are so complex and so detailed, people just need to get a better understanding of them,” he said.
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