Logging road debate headed to Supreme Court next

Platoons of lawyers and all three branches of government are weighing in on this one . . .

Do logging roads create water pollution, or just carry it?

The question has triggered a case of dueling government branches and left many in the woods, both industry leaders and environmental activists, anxious to see what happens.

“It’s an on-the-ground nightmare,” said Loren Rose of Seeley Lake’s Pyramid Mountain Lumber. “It would bring a lot of things to a screeching halt.”

The federal Clean Water Act specifically says farm and ranch roads are not a “point source” of water pollution and don’t need a special permit for construction or maintenance. Forest roads never got a similar exemption. But for decades, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not considered logging roads a water pollution source.

That started to change last year, when an Oregon lawsuit made it to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the judges ruled the Clean Water Act should come down hard on logging roads. That case is now headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, which hears oral arguments on Dec. 3.

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