Group Files Lawsuit to Challenge Logging in White Mountain National Forest 

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Rob Wipfler photo

Lake Tarleton from Piermont Mountain

Federal litigation alleges U.S. Forest Service approvals unlawfully failed to consider climate, biodiversity and clean water; seeks to protect treasured, biodiverse forests around Lake Tarleton and in northern Presidential Range

CONCORD, New Hampshire  — Vermont Law and Graduate School’s Environmental Advocacy Clinic filed suit today in the United States District Court for the District of New Hampshire on behalf of forest protection group Standing Trees

The suit challenges commercial logging projects recently approved by the United States Forest Service in the White Mountain National Forest, in Piermont and Gorham, New Hampshire (click here for photos).            

The challenged projects — known as the Tarleton and Peabody West Integrated Resource Projects — include nearly 3,000 acres of commercial logging and more than 11 miles of permanent road construction in two irreplaceable landscapes traversed by the Appalachian Trail and enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year.

  • Asking the court to set aside the projects, the lawsuit cites legal violations, including the Forest Service’s failures to: 
  • Substantiate the need for commercial logging;
  • Evaluate alternatives to the Forest Service’s projects to meet this “need;”
  • Fully disclose the environmental impacts of the projects individually and cumulatively, in combination with other logging projects across the White Mountain National Forest;
  • Specify the impacts of the projects on mature and old-growth forests, as directed by President Biden in Executive Order 14072, April 2022;
  • Avoid impacts on endangered species like the Northern Long-eared Bat;
  • Avoid impacts to the Great Gulf Inventoried Roadless Area; and
  • Protect the water quality of exceptional waterbodies including Lake Tarleton, which is among the largest, cleanest, and least developed lakes in the White Mountain National Forest, and the Peabody River, a tributary of the Androscoggin River that originates in the high country of the Presidential Range and is eligible to be classified as a wild and scenic river.     

“The project approvals violate the National Environmental Policy Act, Administrative Procedure Act and National Forest Management Act,” Diana Csank, assistant professor of law at Vermont Law and Graduate School, said. “These laws require rigorous reviews compiling the best possible information, so that the Forest Service can achieve better environmental outcomes.” 

“The Forest Service has displayed zero interest in collaborating with the public to improve either one of these reckless logging projects,” Zack Porter, executive director of Standing Trees, said. The organization works to protect federal and state public lands across New England. “The Forest Service has had ample opportunity to involve and learn from local communities, respond to new presidential direction and adapt its plans to changing conditions. The public deserves better and we have no choice but to take the agency to court.”

The lawsuit follows advocacy by the Environmental Advocacy Clinic on Standing Trees’ behalf during the administrative review of both projects, including extensive objections filed with the Forest Service in May 2023 and June 2023.

Quotes from those involved in the issue: 

“Lake Tarleton was protected 20 years ago by our local community because of its unique, unspoiled wilderness character, and to prevent just the kind of wholesale change that is now proposed by the White Mountain National Forest,” said Rob Wipfler, co-director of Kingswood Camp, a popular boys’ summer camp that has operated on the shore of Lake Tarleton under various names since 1909. “We were told in no uncertain terms that Lake Tarleton would be managed to protect its ‘wilderness’ qualities for future generations. Instead of honoring the people who worked tirelessly to add this landscape to the National Forest, the Tarleton Integrated Resource Project violates the public’s trust and adversely impacts our business.”

Conway, New Hampshire, resident Jerry Curran said, “The White Mountain National Forest is a national treasure, but the Forest Service seems to think that its highest value is saw-logs, pulpwood and fuel instead of habitat, carbon storage, clean water and quiet recreation. The Presidential Range is like nowhere else in the eastern United States. And yet the Peabody West Integrated Resource Project treats the spectacular slopes of iconic Mt. Madison as a timber basket instead of celebrating the intact forest that exists there today.”

“The Forest Service is desecrating Godak Wadso (‘Hidden Mountain’ or ‘Mt Washington’) and Lake Tarleton with these logging Projects,” John Moody, project coordinator of the Winter Center for Indigenous Traditions said. “The mountains and waters of what we now call the White Mountain National Forest have been kept in a good way and used by the Abenaki community since time immemorial. These Projects betray cultural ignorance and a deep lack of respect for abaziak (‘trees’), nebesak (‘waters’) and adenak (‘mountains’).”   

“These two projects are so disappointing for an agency that I dedicated my career to,” said Jim Furnish, who retired as deputy chief of the Forest Service in 2001 after a 35-year career. “The clear failure to take a hard look at impacts, respond reasonably to public concerns, and adapt management priorities to honor Presidential direction for mature and old-growth forests leaves concerned stakeholders with little choice but to sue.”

“A rigorous carbon analysis would not conclude that logging projects of this magnitude are ‘negligible’ in their climate impact,” William Moomaw, professor of international environmental policy emeritus at the Tufts Fletcher School and distinguished visiting scientist at the Woodwell Climate Research Center, said. “In March, 200 scientists sent a letter to President Biden urging an immediate moratorium on mature and old-growth forest logging on federal lands to prevent just the sort of logging proposed in these two projects. If we wish to be global leaders on climate change, we must put our mature and old-growth forests on a different path.”

“The Forest Service appears to think that it can rush logging projects forward with minimal consideration of impacts and public disclosure of information,” Hannah Weisgerber, a student attorney in the Environmental Advocacy Clinic, said. “Approvals for both projects were arbitrary and capricious and a betrayal of the public’s right to due process.”

Last month, the Environmental Advocacy Clinic filed with the Forest Service a detailed objection to yet another flawed logging project in the White Mountain National Forest, the Sandwich Vegetation Management Project in the shadow of iconic Mount Chocorua and the Sandwich Range Wilderness. Standing Trees’ objection underscores how the White Mountain National Forest’s approach to these projects reflects an ongoing pattern of unlawful, cursory reviews of consequential decisions to log thousands of acres of New England’s federal forests, without regard for logging’s detrimental impacts on climate resilience, biodiversity and water quality.


Together with Standing Trees and its member-stakeholders, Vermont Law and Graduate School student attorney Hannah Weisgerber, former student attorney Angela Galik, Assistant Professor Diana Csank, and Environmental Advocacy Clinic Director Christophe Courchesne led the drafting of the complaint, with substantial assistance from student attorneys Ashton Danneels, Katlyn Schafer and Logan Keen and support from Clinic program coordinator Taylor Cox. Former student attorneys Sarah Christopherson, Isabella Pardales, Amanda Reyes, and former clinic director Michael Harris contributed to the Clinic’s past advocacy on behalf of Standing Trees to challenge these projects, as did former Clinic office manager Joe Anderson.

About Vermont Law and Graduate School: Vermont Law and Graduate School, a private, independent institution, is home to a law school that offers ABA-accredited residential and online hybrid JD programs and a graduate school that offers master’s degrees and certificates in multiple disciplines, including programs offered by the Maverick Lloyd School for the Environment, the Center for Justice Reform and other graduate-level programs emphasizing the intersection of environmental justice, social justice and public policy. Both the law and graduate schools strongly feature experiential clinical and field work learning. For more information, visit vermontlaw.eduFacebook and Instagram. 

Standing Trees is a grassroots membership organization that works to protect and restore New England’s forests for the benefit of the climate, clean water, and biodiversity, with a focus on state and federal public lands in New Hampshire and Vermont. Standing Trees members regularly visit and recreate throughout the White Mountain National Forest, including the areas impacted by the Tarleton and Peabody West projects. For more information, visit, or follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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