Clearcutting: Can You See the Forest for the Trees?

James E. Bernstein
Penny Hazelton, University of Washington School of Law
Dennis J. Hubel


The Organic Act of 1897 provided for the establishment and management of the national forest and park lands. In West Virginia Division of the Izaak Walton League v. Butz the United States District court, applying the "plain meaning" of the Organic Act, permanently enjoined clearcutting on the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia. The meaning of isolated words, however, is rarely determinative of Congressional intent. This article will demonstrate the shortcomings of the court's decision through an examination of the doctrines of statutory construction and analysis of the legislative history and administrative interpretation of the Act and by addressing the real issue, clearcutting as a scientific management technique.