The Forest Service summaries are here: Litigation Weekly February 28_2020_Final
A case filed by a ranch and Idaho state officials was voluntarily dismissed because the BLM and Forest Service subsequently submitted the 2015 sage grouse plan amendment decisions to Congress in accordance with the Congressional Review Act.
(Blogger’s note: The Forest Service summary refers to the plan amendments once as the “Sage Grouse Rules.” These court document do not use this term, and I don’t believe a court has ever determined that forest plans are “rules” requiring submission to Congress under the CRA.)
The plaintiffs are challenging the Darby Lumber Lands Phase II Project on the Bitterroot National Forest, which involves “restoration” of lands formerly owned and logged by the Darby Lumber Co., and changing forest plan management direction for elk. (D. Mont.) (More of the context is provided here.)
The plaintiffs bring various claims under ESA and NFMA related to the effects of management of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest riparian areas on the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse and its critical habitat. (D. Ariz.) (More of the context, including a Forest Service response, is included here.)
- More on sage grouse
(Update) In response to a court ruling against the 2019 amendments to the 2015 amendments to sage grouse management in BLM land management plans in seven states, the BLM is publishing six draft supplemental environmental impact statements. They are not proposing to change the 2019 decision. (They are currently operating under the 2015 amendments in accordance with the court ruling.) An article from Colorado is here.
- Waters of the US (WOTUS)
(Notice of Intent) More than a dozen conservation groups notified the Trump administration that it will challenge its compliance with the Endangered Species Act when it changed a federal rule aimed at protecting rivers and streams across the United States. EPA’s new rule, announced January 23 and expected to go into effect in mid-March, would exclude ephemeral waters, such as washes, that do not flow year-round, plus “millions of acres of rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, impoundments, and other waterbodies,” the groups wrote. (This article includes a link to the notice through the CBD press release.) We previously discussed this here.
(Court opinion) The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a decision by the BLM to remove wild horses from the Caliente Complex in Nevada. The court found that a challenge to the land management plan decision to not manage the area for horse was beyond the 6-year statute of limitations for litigating agency decisions. It also found that the project “gathering” decision complied with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act and NEPA.
(Fallout) “Although Benson does not explain the decision to cancel the objection period in his written notice, and in a statement to the Beacon merely said it had been placed on hold and will be reinstated at a later date, Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, explained that a 2019 federal court decision surrounding his group’s lawsuit over a separate but adjacent timber project found that road closures were ineffective to protect the declining population of grizzly bears.” That court decision on the Pilgrim project was provided in this Litigation Weekly.
(Update) After the Supreme Court hearing, both sides seem to agree that the Court would allow the pipeline to be built on national forest land under the Appalachian Trail. That’s assuming the other flaws in the process can be corrected (as discussed here).
A man in Colorado was cited for using a snowmobile in a designated wilderness on fragile bare ground. The prosecution was partly the result of social media.
(New case) The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission was sued by the Center for Biological Diversity for approving a permit for building reservoirs and associated infrastructure to generate electricity from pumped water. It would affect lands on the Gila and Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests, and the San Francisco River is being considered for recommended protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in the Gila forest plan revision.