NFS Litigation Weekly April 10, 2020

Here’s the Forest Service summary:  Litigation Weekly April 10_2020_Final_Email


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the Forest Service’s decision to not prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Crystal Clear Restoration Project on Mount Hood National Forest was arbitrary and capricious – as described in more detail here.


(Front Range Equine Rescue v. Christiansen)  The plaintiffs requested dismissal of the complaints in the District Court of Northern California concerning the gathering of wild horses on the Modoc National Forest based on the new provision in the 2020 Interior-EPA Federal Budget authorization that prohibits the sale of wild horses without limitation (i.e. for slaughter) by the Forest Service.

(Rocky Mountain Wild v. Dallas) The District Court of Colorado issued an order granting a partial motion to dismiss concerning ANILCA in favor of the Forest Service concerning the Village of Wolf Creek Access 2019 Record of Decision (2019 ROD) on the Rio Grande National Forest.


(Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. U.S. Forest Service)  The plaintiff filed a complaint in the District of Montana concerning the authorization of the Elk Smith Project on The Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest and the programmatic ESA consultation for the wolverine.

(Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt)  The plaintiffs filed a complaint in the District Court for the District of Columbia against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service concerning the Upper Green River Area Rangeland Project on the Bridger-Teton National Forest, which plaintiffs allege unlawfully impacts the grizzly bear.  (Here’s CBD’s press release, and here’s another summary.)


Alliance for the Wild Rockies claims the Forest Service violated the Endangered Species Act regarding alleged violations of road restrictions over the prior five-year period on the Helena-Lewis & Clark National Forest and has not properly consulted on the effects on grizzly bears.  (Here’s a local news article.)

The Center for Biological Diversity intends to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service concerning the expansion of the Lee Canyon Ski Area on the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest regarding its effects on the Mount Charleston Blue Butterfly.

The Center for Biological Diversity also intends to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Forest Service concerning region-wide restoration project impacts on the Mexican Spotted Owl in Region 3.



  • Ten-mile South Helena Project

(Update)  We’ve talked about this case a few times, including here, where the State of Montana’s intervention was mentioned.  The role of intervenors in settlements has come up before and I ran across this court’s treatment of that request in this case:

In granting the motion for intervention as a matter of right, the Court advises Montana that, while it may participate in settlement negotiations with the parties should such negotiations take place, its status as Defendant-Intervenor does not carry with it the right to prevent any settlement of plaintiffs’ or consolidated plaintiffs’ claims from occurring…

A preliminary injunction was denied in October.  Here is the plaintiff’s recent perspective on the ongoing project:

  “How does the Forest Service justify bulldozing new roads where they are not supposed to be?  Only by saying, “this feature is not a road.”

(New case against FWS.)  The Center for Biological Diversity and others have sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing (again) to protect wolverines as required by the Endangered Species Act.  Read more here.

  • Iron Mask sagebrush/juniper project

(Continuation of an existing case against BLM.)  According the Alliance for the Wild Rockies,

“The federal court agreed and halted the project last year because the BLM’s analysis was limited to the theoretical positive effects but did not analyze the overwhelming negative effects of burning sagebrush-juniper habitat on wildlife. Ignoring the court’s order, the Trump administration now wants to go forward to benefit a few cattle ranchers without analyzing the damage their project will have on public lands and a wide variety of native wildlife.

(Court decision involving EPA.)  The First Circuit Court of Appeals found that under the Federal Advisory Committee Act, the EPA must ensure that its science advisory committees are sufficiently balanced so that they can provide independent advice.

(Potential lawsuit.)  Monroe County, Indiana has approved the use of its attorneys to challenge a project on the Hoosier National Forest that could affect its municipal watershed.

(New case against FWS.)  The Buffalo Field Campaign, Friends of Animals, and Western Watersheds Project have sued the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service for determining that the bison (which seasonally uses a portion of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest) does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act.

(Court decision involving BLM.)  In a case involving the State of California and other plaintiffs, the Trump administration didn’t break the law when it scrapped an Obama-era regulation for fracking on public and tribal lands.

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