Judge chastises forest plan defendant

  The Clinton administration's Northwest forest plan received a blow March 21 when a federal judge ruled the plan was prepared in violation of a federal open-meetings law. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson of the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., said the administration failed to include public comment and took information from a limited circle of scientists in composing the plan, known as Option 9. Jackson did not rule the plan illegal, but he left the door open for future legal challenge. An unnamed administration official told the Washington Post the ruling "slaps us on the wrists and allows us to move forward." But that comment irked Judge Jackson, who in an impromptu, post-opinion session, chastised Justice Department lawyers representing the case. "I don't think it's a reaction which they ought to be proud of," Jackson stated. "I did not commend the government for a good-faith effort." Despite Jackson's ruling, the administration presented its plan to U.S. District Court Judge William Dwyer in Seattle April 14. Timber industry leaders plan to sue again, using the weight of Jackson's ruling in Dwyer's court. Says Mark Rey, executive director of the American Forest and Paper Association, "If you look at Option 9 as the Starship Enterprise, the shields are down and it's not going to take many more photon torpedoes."