Legal Fees Awarded
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MENDOCINO COUNTY (Sept. 13, 2004)... The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) has been ordered by the Court of Appeals to pay an environmentalist organization $104,000 for their attorney fees in litigating against the state agency over California's largest state forest.

The Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest took the agency to court and obtained an injunction against timber harvesting, contending the management plan for the forest was being violated and needed updating. The trial court found that the harm from the harvesting operations could be substantial and, possibly, irreparable.

When timber work was shut down, the CDF implemented a new management plan. The agency opposed the group's request for attorney fees, saying it did not enforce an important right affecting the public interest. Appellate judges said they disagreed.

"The enforcement of the management obligations of' State Forests is a right of sufficient importance to support an award of attorney fees," the judges said. They said the state agency is "obligated to manage the Jackson State Forest according to current practices which achieve maximum sustained production of high quality forest products while giving consideration to values relating to recreation, watershed, wildlife, range and forage, fisheries, and aesthetic enjoyment. Without question, this obligation is an important right affecting the public interest. This right was enforced by the Campaign."

The CDF argues that they decided to alter their management plan, and the environmentalist group was not responsible for the changes, and therefore did not deserve attorney fees. Appeals judges saw it different; "The Campaign protected the forest from being subjected to management practices that did not reflect the best available thinking about these practices. This significant benefit justifies the court's fee award."

Finally, CDF argued that in awarding the fees the trial court did not consider the adverse effects of the litigation on (the CDF) budget. "The basic problem with defendant's (CDF) argument is that it suffers from a myopic view of what caused these budgetary shortfalls," judges said. "The Campaign's effort to stop CDF from harvesting timber without regard to their management obligations did not 'cost' defendants these monies. Rather, defendants' inability to harvest timber in the Jackson State Forest was a result of their failure to manage the forest in accordance with currently mandated management practices. The trial court was not required to take into account the financial impact on defendants in this decision."

>App opinion 9/3/04 A102405 /Mendocino Co 84903

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