Recent Important Case Law
Project v. Kraayenbrink et al. (220 KB PDF) September 1, 2010
This Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholds an earlier 2007 ruling by the district court (see below, under "2007"). The decision had been appealed by the BLM with intervenors from ranching lobbyists Public Lands Council and the Farm Bureau. Although BLM in 2008 withdrew its appeal, the intervenors continued to press the appeal of the decision, which had been deemed illegal because of violations of both the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Endangered Species Act.
The regulations were approved by the BLM despite widespread opposition and massive public outcry. An interdisciplinary team of biologists and other specialists had concluded that the proposed changes in grazing regulations would have “a slow long-term adverse effect on wildlife and biological diversity in general.” In sum, the re-write of grazing regulations under the Bush era would reduce the public's involvement, reduce the BLM's ability to enforce regs and limit enforcement actions; and would have allowed ranchers to take over waters rights on public lands.
Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey et.al. (46 KB PDF)
On August 13, 2009, the Ninth Circuit issued a new opinion authored by Judge Raymond Fisher that reaffirms and clarifies its decision from last year. The new opinion confirms not only that the Forest Service broke the law when it adopted the 2004 Framework, but also that logging big trees under the 2004 Framework “does nothing in itself to prevent forest fires, because large trees make poor fuel.” Accordingly, the new opinion sends the case back to the district court in Sacramento to decide whether the 2004 Framework should be set aside and the Clinton-era 2001 Framework reinstated. In reaching this decision, the Ninth Circuit reminded the district court that Legacy has never sought to stop the Forest Service from removing small diameter trees to reduce the risk of wildfire, but rather seeks only to prevent the commercial logging of large trees.
Sierra Forest Legacy v. Rey et.al. (101KB PDF)
May 14, 2008 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The Court rules in favor of Sierra Forest Legacy Legacy in a challenge to a District Court decision which upheld the Forest Service's 2004 Sierra Nevada Framework Plan. The 9th Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision and said the government has failed to justify a critical element in its plan for the forests: selling trees to lumber companies to pay for removing brush that increases the threat of fire. The Court also stated that the U.S. Forest Service has not explored the obvious alternatives: finding the money elsewhere in its budget or asking Congress for more. The Court also enjoined the Slapjack, Basin, and Empire projects which were at the heart of the lawsuit.
Sierra Club and Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign v. Bosworth et.al. (70KB PDF)
December 5, 2007 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The Court rules in favor of the Sierra Club and Sierra Forest Legacy in a challenge to a District Court decision which ruled that the Forest Service did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it promulgated a NEPA Categorical Exclusion for all fuel reduction projects up to 1,000 acres and all prescribed burn projects up to 4,500 acres. The 9th Circuit reversed the District Court’s decision and ruled that the Forest Service’s decision to promulgate the Fuels CE was arbitrary and capricious and that it failed to demonstrate a “reasoned decision” based on relevant factors and information.
Oregon Natural Resources Council Fund v. Brong (76KB PDF)
July 24, 2007 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
In a challenge to a BLM plan to log protected land after a forest fire, an order granting a permanent injunction against the implementation of the plan is affirmed where: 1) the BLM violated the Federal Land Policy & Management Act by misinterpreting the relevant land use plan to allow the logging; and 2) the BLM's environmental impact statement for the logging plan did not contain an adequate cumulative effects analysis.
Lands Council v. McNair (136KB PDF)
July 2, 2007 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Denial of plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to halt a selective logging project in Idaho is reversed and remanded where: 1) plaintiffs demonstrated a probability of success on the merits and a possibility of irreparable injury; and 2) they showed that the balance of hardships and the public interest favored granting the preliminary injunction.
Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink (128KB PDF)
June 8, 2007 – U.S. District Court
A district court held that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it revised its nationwide grazing regulations. In issuing the regulations, which generally loosen restrictions on grazing, BLM violated NEPA by failing to take the requisite "hard look" at the environmental effects of the regulations. BLM failed to take a hard look as to why its public participation and "consult, cooperate, and coordinate" duties should be more limited than those in the previous regulations. The revisions also changed the "Fundamentals of Rangeland Health" and the criteria for ownership of range improvements and water rights. Again, BLM should explain itself so decisionmakers and the public can determine whether these changes are acceptable. For many of these same reasons, the regulations also violate FLPMA. Last, BLM should have consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service--as required by the ESA--before issuing the new regulations. The court, therefore, enjoined the revised regulations from taking effect until BLM proceeds with consultation under the ESA and takes the requisite hard look at the environmental impacts under NEPA.
EPIC v. U.S. Forest Service (24KB PDF)
May 9, 2007
Utah Environmental Congress v. Richmond (136KB PDF)
April 30, 2007
Oregon Natural Desert Association v. Lohn (116KB PDF)
April 16, 2007 – U.S. District Court
Court rules that portions of all three challenged biological opinions are in violation of the Endangered Species Act; finds that the government "failed to evaluate whether short-term habitat degradation caused each grazing season will reduce the steelhead's ability to survive and recover," in light of "overwhelming evidence of habitat degradation" from livestock grazing.
Citizens for Better Forestry v. U.S. Department of Agriculture (180KB PDF)
March 30, 2007
Center for Biological Diversity v. Bosworth (52KB PDF)
March 3, 2007
Oregon Nat'l Resources Council v. Allen (92KB PDF)
February 16, 2007 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
In a dispute involving the impact of a portion of a proposed timber harvest on the endangered northern spotted owl, the court rules that an Incidental Take Statement by the Fish and Wildlife Service authorizing the taking of all the owls associated with a harvest is invalid because: 1) a withdrawal of a portion of a Biological Opinion left the Statement without an underlying factual predicate; 2) the Statement presented a nonnumerical measure of take without explaining why no number was provided; and 3) the Statement set a measure of take that did not allow for reinitiation of consultation.
Siskiyou Regional Education Project v. Goodman (56KB PDF)
January 24, 2007 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The Court denied a preliminary injunction request which was sought to halt the U.S. Forest Service’s forest recovery plans for the area associated with the Biscuit Fire. The Court determined that the appellants claims that NFMA, NEPA, and the Northwest Forest Plan were all violated by the Forest Service did not show a probability of success of the merits.
Oregon Natural Resources Council v. BLM (80KB PDF)
December 4, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
In an action under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) challenging an Environmental Analysis conducted in connection with a logging project in Oregon, summary judgment in favor of the Bureau of Land Management on mootness grounds is reversed where the case was not moot, and an environmental assessment (EA) was inadequate as it: 1) failed to disclose and consider quantified and detailed information regarding the cumulative impact of the logging project combined with past, present, and reasonably foreseeable logging projects; and 2) it was tiered to other documents that did not contain the requisite site-specific information about cumulative effects.
Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center v. Boody (51KB PDF)
November, 6, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
A judgment finding that certain of the Bureau of Land Management's annual species review decisions regarding the red tree vole were lawful and that certain timber sales were valid and should be permitted to go forward is reversed and the timber sales are enjoined from going forward where: 1) the decisions regarding the red tree vole were invalid under both the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); and 2) the timber sales violate federal law since they rely on the unlawful decisions.
Pit River Tribe v. U.S. Forest Service (140KB PDF)
November 6, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Summary judgment for defendants-agencies on claims alleging that procedures followed by the agencies in extending certain leases in highlands considered sacred to plaintiffs-Native American tribes and the subsequent approval of a geothermal plant to be built there, violated various federal laws and fiduciary obligations to tribes, is reversed where the agencies did not take a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of the 1998 lease extensions and never adequately considered the no-action alternative.
Center for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne (60KB PDF)
October 18, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The Court concluded that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service failed to identify proposals for other species listings that precluded listing the Sierra Nevada Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog or to give evidence that expeditious progress is being made to list qualified species. Therefore, the court reversed the District Court’s ruling and remanded the decision to the Service.
Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink (56KB PDF)
September 25, 2006
Western Watersheds Project just obtained a nationwide injunction on the "Fundamentals of Rangeland Health" rulemaking, which would have overhauled the already poor ability of the public to affect livestock grazing decisions on public lands.
Oregon Natural Desert Association v. U.S. Forest Service (128KB PDF)
September 21, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The United States Forest Service’s issuance of annual operating instructions (AOIs) to permittees who graze livestock on national forest land constitutes final agency action for purposes of judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
Baykeeper v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (136KB PDF)
September 20, 2006
El Dorado Irrigation District v. State Water Resources Control Board (120KB PDF)
September 8, 2006 – State of California Appeals Court
A California appellate court holds that the state water board abuses its discretion in imposing certain restrictions on an irrigation district's permit to appropriate water within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed but not on appropriators whose rights are junior to those of the irrigator. The restrictions require the irrigator to curtail its diversion of water when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation or the state water department are releasing stored water from certain water projects to meet water quality objectives in the Delta. The water board's action contravened the rule of priority because appropriators junior to the irrigator can divert water when it cannot. Although the rule of priority is not absolute, the board must protect water right priorities unless doing so would result in the unreasonable use of water, harm values protected by the public trust doctrine, or violate some other equally important principle or interest. Such is not the case here. The court, therefore, affirms a lower court order requiring the water board to set aside the restriction.
Earth Island Institute v. Ruthenbeck (88KB PDF)
August 10, 2006
In an appeal arising from a judgment enjoining Forest Service regulations governing review of decisions implementing forest plans, the district court's invalidation of 36 C.F.R. section 215.12(f) and a nationwide injunction against its enforcement is affirmed, but the judgment and injunction is remanded to be vacated with respect to the remaining regulations for lack of a controversy ripe for review.
Great Basin Mine Watch v. Hankins (76KB PDF)
August 1, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Summary judgment on claims under federal statutes, including the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), brought against federal agencies involving the approval of two gold mining permits for a company is reversed in part where vague and conclusory statements in final environmental impact statements (EIS), without any supporting data, did not constitute a "hard look" at the environmental consequences of the action as required by NEPA, and thus, the cumulative impacts analysis was insufficient.
EPIC v. U.S Forest Service (96KB PDF)
June 23, 2006
Forest Guardians v. Johanns (88KB PDF)
June 13, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
In a dispute involving the environmental impact of cattle grazing on certain national forest land, a judgment for the U.S. Forest Service is reversed where the Forest Service's failure to re-initiate informal consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the land at issue violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Sierra Club v. Bosworth (156KB PDF)
April 18, 2006
Ebbetts Pass Forest Watch v. CA Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (192KB PDF)
April 14, 2006
Earth Island Institute v. U.S. Forest Service (100KB PDF)
March 24, 2006 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Denial of a motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin implementation of two Forest Service post-fire restoration projects is reversed where plaintiff showed a strong likelihood of success on the merits of its claims that environmental impact statements did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act or National Forest Management Act.
Western Watersheds Project v. U.S. Forest Service (84KB PDF)
February 7, 2006
Pacific Lumber Co. v. State Water Resources Control Board (96KB PDF)
January 30, 2006 – Supreme Court of California
The Z'berg-Nejedly Forest Practice Act and its implementing regulations do not provide the exclusive mechanism through which Regional Water Quality Control Boards and the State Water Resources Control Board may address water quality concerns implicated by logging operations associated with a timber harvest plan.
EPIC v. U.S. Forest Service (44KB PDF)
December 19, 2005 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Summary judgment for defendant regarding its denial of waivers of fees for certain records requests by plaintiffs under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is reversed because only statutes setting mandatory fees, rather than statutes setting discretionary fees, meet the exception to the FOAI fee waiver provision.
EPIC v. CA Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (224KB PDF)
December 12, 2005
Ecology Center v. Austin (988KB PDF).
December 8, 2005 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Grant of summary judgment for defendant in an action challenging a decision by defendant to allow certain commercial logging activities is reversed where defendant's decision to permit logging in critical old-growth forest and post-fire habitats was arbitrary and capricious.
Native Ecosystems Council v. U.S. Forest Service (68KB PDF)
November 7, 2005 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
In a case alleging violations of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) by a proposed resource management project, summary judgment for defendant is affirmed where defendant did prepare and consider alternatives to the adopted plan, and defendant's decisions were not arbitrary and capricious.
Native Ecosystems Council v. Bosworth (60KB PDF)
September 28, 2005
Utah Environmental Congress, v. Bosworth (108KB PDF)
August 19, 2005 – U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals
The court vacates the U.S. Forest Service's approval of a timber harvesting project in the Fishlake National Forest in Utah. The Service did not properly select and monitor the management indicator species (MIS) populations used to determine the effects of management activities on other species. The Service must use actual, quantitative population data to meet its MIS monitoring obligations. Here, the Service failed to meet its obligations with respect to the sage-nester guild, riparian guild, cavity-nester guild, and the Mexican spotted owl.
Native Ecosystems Council v. U.S. Forest Service (88KB PDF)
August, 11, 2005 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
The US Forest Service's approval of the North Elkhorns Vegetation Treatment Project violates the National Environmental Policy Act where the agency did not take a "hard look" at the project's true effect and failed to inform the public of the project's environmental impact.
People of the State of California v. U.S. Forest Service (164KB PDF)
July 11, 2005
Sierra Nevada Forest Protection Campaign v. Weingardt (4.8MB PDF)
June 30, 2005 - U.S. District Court
The court held that the U.S. Forest Service's failure to provide for effective predecisional public involvement in the preparation of the environmental assessments (EAs) for four logging projects in the Lassen and Shasta-Trinity National Forests was contrary to law under the Administrative Procedure Act. Although the Council on Environmental Quality regulations do not require the circulation of a draft EA, they do require that the public be given as much environmental information as is practicable, prior to completion of the EA, so that the public has a sufficient basis to address those subject areas that the agency must consider in preparing the EA. In each of the projects under review here, the Forest Service failed to give the public an adequate predecisional opportunity for informed comment. The scoping notices for each project contained no analysis of the environmental impacts of the projects and failed to give the public adequate information to effectively participate in the decision making process. And because a new environmental review process would be pointless were the court to permit the projects to go forward without informed public comment, the court enjoined the projects until the Forest Service complies with the National Environmental Policy Act.
Washington Toxics Coalition v. U.S. EPA (116KB PDF)
June 29, 2005
City of Burbank v. State Water Resources Control Board (164KB PDF)
April 4, 2005 – Supreme Court of California
When a regional board issues a permit to a wastewater treatment facility, it may not consider economic factors to justify imposing pollutant restrictions that are less stringent than the applicable federal standards require; however, it may take into account economic factors when making the restrictions more stringent than federal law.
League of Wilderness Defenders v. U.S. Forest Service (156KB PDF)
November 19, 2004
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management (120KB PDF)
October 28, 2004 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Plaintiff-environmental organization successfully challenges two timber sales proposed by defendant where the analyses performed by defendant do not sufficiently consider the cumulative impacts posed by the timber sales.
Lands Council v. Powell (120KB PDF).
August 13, 2004 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Dismissal of plaintiff's challenge to a timber harvest, approved by the United States Forest Service, is reversed where the timber harvesting project violates the National Environmental Policy Act and National Forest Management Act.
Gifford Pinchot Task Force v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (136KB PDF)
August 6, 2004 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Summary judgment in favor of defendant, regarding six biological operation opinions it issued, is reversed where its critical habitat analysis was fatally flawed because it relied on an unlawful regulatory definition of "adverse modification" and it impermissibly substituted "late successional reserves" for critical habitat.
Earth Island Institute v. U.S. Forest Service (176KB PDF)
December 11, 2003 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
In denying plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction against a forest restoration project, district court applied an improper legal standard of irreparable harm and failed to consider the broader public interest in environmental preservation. Plaintiffs demonstrated a reasonable probability of success on the merits of some of their claims.
Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Service (96KB PDF)
November 18, 2003 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
A final environmental impact statement (EIS) failed to disclose responsible scientific opposition to the conclusion upon which it is based, as required by 40 C.F.R. section 1502.9(b).
Citizens for Better Forestry v. U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture (124KB PDF)
August 28, 2003 – U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
A coalition of environmental groups alleged procedural injury through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service's failure to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, before promulgating its new national forest management policy, thus they established both standing and ripeness.
Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District v. Norton (72KB PDF)
June 21, 2002