Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed nationwide by AWR in 25 years

According to this article, “3 Montana environmental groups file 200 lawsuits against federal agencies,” in the Ravalli Republic, “The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, the Montana Ecosystems Defense Council and the Native Ecosystems Council are the three conservation groups that have been the most litigious in recent years [since 1989] in the Helena region. The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

UPDATE NOTE:  I just edited the title of this post because the original title used by Steve Wilent was factually incorrect. Steve’s original title was “Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed in Montana.” That title was clearly factually incorrect because as the article clearly points out (and ironically as Steve’s post lated point out):  “The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

11 Comments

  1. Let’s see….the Alliance for the Wild Rockies has been involved in 212 lawsuits since 1989.

    Wow! That sounds like a lot.

    Wait a minute, 1989 was 25 years ago and ironically was during the period of the highest logging and roadbuilding levels on America’s public National Forests.

    So, 212 lawsuits during a 25 year period comes out to less than 8.5 lawsuits per year.

    And let’s not forget that the Alliance for the Wild Rockies Rockies monitors and fully participates in the NEPA/NFMA process for logging, grazing, mining, motorized recreation and roadbuilding projects and ESA species and issues on federal public lands (USFS, BLM lands) in (at least) Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Eastern Washington and Oregon and Utah, which covers an area of PUBLIC LANDS OVER 60 MILLION ACRES in size!

    How many (tens of?) thousands of land management decisions were made by the USFS, BLM and USFWS during the past 25 years in this expansive northern Rockies and central Rockies region? I’d contend that 8.5 lawsuits per year on logging, grazing, mining, motorized recreation and roadbuilding projects, as well as a host of ESA issues really isn’t that many, given the 60 MILLION ACRES plus of public lands that make up the entire Northern Rockies and Central Rockies region of the United States of America.

    How many of these lawsuits did the AWR win? How many of these lawsuits were the result of questionable Forest Service projects? Or because the Bush Administration was found guilty of illegally inserting politics into ESA listings, such as these documented examples with Julie McDonald?

    Here’s another good question: How many lawsuits were filed by grazing, motorized recreation, logging, mining or other commercial interests during the same period over the same stretch 60 Million acres of public lands? I do know that when it comes to USFS appeals, the vast majority aren’t filled by enviro groups (despite the rhetoric) but are instead filled by grazing, mining and other commercial interests, such as outfitters, etc. One has to assume this is also the case w/ lawsuits.

      • Did you fail to see this Steve?

        “The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The alliance leads the way as a plaintiff on 212 lawsuits dating back to 1989….”

        Pretty sure this includes suits involving NFMA, NEPA, ESA.

        Thanks.

        • Matthew, too bad the article isn’t clear about how many EAJA cases were filed. It as more clear about the payments made, making it easy even for me to comprehend:

          In the last five fiscal years, $617,058.40 in attorney fees has been awarded to the three groups and their co-plaintiffs in lawsuits against the Forest Service. Of that total, $572,058.40 came under the EAJA, according to Forest Service records. Some $45,000 of it went to attorneys for the alliance under the Endangered Species Act judgment fund.”

          • Steve, And as the reporter just wrote to me directly: “My reference to the $100,000 is derived from the attorney fees paid over the last 5 fiscal years compared to the annual budget of $200 million. Attorneys were paid around $587,000 from EAJA or about $117,000 per year on average. Not much compared to the budget.”

          • Steve, maybe I misunderstood your comment, but there’s really no such thing as a case filed “under EAJA”. The cases referenced are all, to my knowledge, based on ESA and/or NEPA/APA (a NFMA violation basically implicates a NEPA violation as well). There may be some suits based in whole or part on Clean Water Act also. Those are the bases for getting into court. If the plaintiffs prevail, they can be awarded costs and fees under EAJA, but EAJA isn’t the basis for the lawsuit.

  2. Hello: I just edited the title of this post because the original title used by Steve Wilent was factually incorrect.

    Steve’s original title was “Equal Access to Justice Act: 200+ Lawsuits filed in Montana.”

    That title was clearly factually incorrect because as the article clearly points out (and ironically as Steve’s post lated point out):

    “The groups have been involved in more than 200 court cases nationwide as plaintiffs or co-plaintiffs against federal agencies like the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

    I decided not to edit and correct the portion of the title that says “Equal Access to Justice Act” even though it’s clear by Steve’s comment above, when he wrote: “Matthew, too bad the article isn’t clear about how many EAJA cases were filed” that he was confused about EAJA. As Guy correctly pointed out, “there’s really no such thing as a case filed “under EAJA.'”

    Let’s all strive to me more factually correct in the future, ok? Thanks.

    • FWIW, I always have fully supported the concept of an easy to search, full Forest Service database of ALL lawsuits against the agency. Sure, maybe it could be broken down by activity or issue, etc but I think people would be surprised (and more informed) when they see who’s suing the agency over what. Does anything like that exist?

      • Matthew, so we DO agree on something: “an easy to search, full Forest Service database of ALL lawsuits against the agency.” With all relevant documents, including details of settlements.

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