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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Conservation Organizations Sue Government over Backroom Deal

Lawsuit filed today against the Bush administration for illegally steering $350 million to timber industry-dominated forestry foundations

A coalition of conservation organizations including Conservation Northwest filed a lawsuit today against the Bush administration for illegally steering $350 million to timber industry-dominated forestry foundations.

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Seattle, WA Sep 10, 2008

 

A coalition of conservation organizations filed a lawsuit today against the Bush administration for illegally steering $350 million to timber industry-dominated forestry foundations.

The suit alleges that the administration officials violated federal appropriations law in September 2006 when, without any public process or Congressional approval, the officials steered $350 million from Canadian lawsuit-settlement funds to the foundations selected by the administration.

The three organizations that filed the suit all are committed to promoting sustainable forestry in the United States. They are the Forest Stewardship Council-US, Conservation Northwest, and the Center for Biological Diversity.

“Once again the Bush Administration has made up its own rules,” said Joe Scott, international programs director of Washington-based Conservation Northwest. “Here, the Administration illegally gave away hundreds of millions of public dollars to organizations whose programs are not clearly established to advance the public interest.”

The suit states that the money the Bush administration earmarked for two timber industry-dominated organizations, the U.S. Endowment for Forest and Communities and American Forest Foundation, should instead have gone into the U.S. Treasury.

“How this money is spent should have been up to Congress, not timber industry executives in a backroom deal with the Administration,” said Bill Snape, senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity.

One of the co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit is the Forest Stewardship Council, the leading third-party independent certifier of forest lands in the United States. Corey Brinkema, the council’s national director, said his organization joined the suit because, “FSC works tirelessly to promote sustainable use of America’s forests by promoting scientifically credible, green-certified forestry. The Administration’s diversion of $350 million to organizations that will likely not promote this type of green forestry is a huge setback for the sustainable forestry community. We’re worried that these foundations could undermine and lower the standards of green-certified forestry.”

The Washington Forest Law Center, a Seattle-based public interest law firm, filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs in federal court in Seattle. The defendants are the U.S. Trade Representative, the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. The suit asks the court to declare that the Bush administration violated the law when it diverted the $350 million to the forestry foundations and asks the court to take reasonable and fair steps to ensure that the money is safeguarded until the administration follows the law.

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