Natural Resources and Environment:

Consequences of the Ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Forest Management Projects

GAO-01-51R: Published: Nov 30, 2000. Publicly Released: Jan 2, 2001.

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The decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit resulted in the Forest Service's suspending or maintaining the suspension of 49 projects within Georgia's Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests--11 for contracted timber sales and 27 for vegetative management actions. The decision did not result in the suspension of projects in other national forests in Alabama and Florida. According to Forest Service officials and other stakeholders, the decision has had various consequences for timber sales and vegetative management projects in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests. In some cases, such as the suspended timber sale projects, the consequences could be quantified in terms of monetary claims against the Forest Service and reduced receipts to local communities. In other cases, such as the suspended vegetative management projects, the consequences are more qualitative. According to Forest Service officials, the suspensions affected the Forest Service's ability to control for wildfires, sedimentation, and southern pine beetle infestations; to protect endangered species; and to ensure habitat diversity. Although the environmental group that filed the lawsuit against the Forest Service could not provide any data on the consequences of the suspended timber sales and vegetative management projects, it generally believed that suspending these projects would improve soil stability, decrease runoff, and increase species diversity.

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