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On behalf of the Utah Environmental Congress and the High Uintas Preservation Council, the Ashley National Forest was challenged adopting a forest plan amendment that reduced the number of Management Indicator Species (MIS) on the Forest from 12 to two. MIS are important, because monitoring of MIS populations is how the agency knows whether or not its management actions help or harm wildlife and ecosystem health. Judge Tena Campbell focused her analysis on the Forest Plan Amendment issue where the Ashley decided to retain only Northern Goshawk and Colorado Cutthroat Trout as MIS when the Forest previously had 12 MIS species. We won primarily because of the small number of MIS retained on the Forest. This is based on the holding from the UEC II case, 421 F. 3d 1105 (10th Cir. 2005). In UEC II, the Tenth Circuit had held previously that “selecting only one or two (or a few) acceptable MIS actually present in a project area cannot satisfy the overall monitoring obligations” of Forest Service regulations. For this reason only having two MIS for the whole Forest is insufficient since its impossible to fulfill their monitoring obligations by even having those two 2 MIS in the project area. Instead of MIS, the agency proposed unspecified “habitat monitoring.” The court rejected habitat monitoring based on other Tenth Circuit precedent. UEC I, 372 F. 3d 1219, 1226 (10th Cir. 2004). The court reversed the Forest’s decision and directed them to select more MIS.
All over the nation, National Forests have been changing their management plans to reduce the number of MIS they need to monitor to ridiculously low and useless numbers. As far as we know, this is the first case in the country to hold that illegal.