State V US Forest Service
The mountain pine beetle epidemic that has struck the Black Hills is unprecedented. Its historic dimensions were predicted by the state’s forestry experts years before the scope of the problem was revealed to the public, yet the forest service refused to provide funding and resources to keep the beetles from spreading.
In an effort to force the federal government to act, a lawsuit was brought in federal district court in Wyoming. The state, represented by two law firms, including Barker Law Firm, LLC, presented expert witnesses that had studied the mountain pine beetle in the Black Hills since the 1970s. Their reports and studies were well-known to the USFS, yet it ignored their dire predictions that unless resources were dedicated to increase harvest, the risk was the loss of the entire Black Hills National Forest over the next decade. The USFS elected instead to allow the infestation to grow exponentially each year, placing the forest and the communities within it at risk.
While the state was eventually forced to concede the federal government’s sole authority to manage its forests, the suit proved publicly that it squandered its opportunity to effectively manage the beetles before they reached epidemic stage. The state and USFS reached a settlement in which the federal government agreed to more aggressively fund its efforts to fight the beetle in the Black Hills.