USFS Sued Over Appeal Policy

A US Forest Service employee and an advocacy group for USFS whistleblowers last week sued the agency in federal court in a challenge to the USFS's policy that prohibits employees from filing "citizen" appeals of agency actions.

The USFS suspended biologist Mary Dalton for 30 days and reassigned her after she filed a formal administrative appeal challenging an agency decision to sell timber from the Tongass National Forest in Alaska.

Dalton had been "surprised" that the agency's environmental impact statement omitted most of her research concerning deer and bear habitat, which she said would be harmed by the proposed logging.

In a letter to Dalton, the USFS's Phil Janik said "employees may not participate as appellants or interested parties" in USFS decisions. The agency next eliminated her position and reassigned her to fight forest fires in Arizona.

Andy Stahl, a lawyer for the Eugene, Ore.-based Association of Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics, which filed suit with Dalton, said the court challenge is the first of its kind.

Stahl: "They really hammered her. Most Forest Service employees understand that the agency shoots its messengers" (Scott Sonner, AP/S.F. Chronicle/Examiner online, 4/20).

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