Court Orders USFS To Complete Trail Plan For Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail

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A court recently held that the Forest Service had failed to prepare a comprehensive plan for that Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail within the two year timeframe required by law.  While the Forest Service admitted it had not complied with the statutory timeframe, it argued that the court should not impose a deadline but instead allow the agency to complete the plan as soon as practicable.  The court disagreed.

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail was designated in 2009.  Under the National Trails System Act, within two years of a trails designation the agency responsible for the trail must prepare comprehensive plan for the management and use of the trail.  The agency agreed that it did not comply with the law, but argued that there was little the court was able to do about it under the law.   Among other arguments, the agency assured the court it would complete a plan as soon as practicable and imposing any deadline on the agency would be unreasonable.  The court disagreed, concluding that it could order the agency to issue the plan by a deadline set by the court.  The court then set a deadline of December 31, 2023.

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