NFS Litigation Weekly October 9, 2020

Forest Service case summaries are here:  Litigation Weekly October 9 2020 EMAIL

Links below are to court documents related to each case.


On October 2, 2020 the District Court of Colorado issued an order allowing a mining company to continue its operations using new roads constructed into a designated roadless area to the West Elk Mine on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.  Road construction in the Sunset Roadless Area was allowed under a lease pursuant to an exception to the Colorado roadless rule, but that exception was subsequently reversed by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.  On remand, the district court did not vacate the lease.

(BLOGGER’S UPDATE:  On October 9, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals temporarily barred further surface disturbance by the West Elk Mine so it can consider the legality of that activity. The complicated history of the exception and this case is included in the Forest Service summary.)

On September 29, 2020 the District Court of Montana issued a decision allowing the Darby Lumber Lands Phase II Project on the Bitterroot National Forest to proceed.  The court also upheld a project-specific forest plan amendment to “suspend” an elk habitat effectiveness standard.  While the court invalidated the Forest’s reference to a minimum road system under the Travel Management Rule because the forest-wide Travel Management Plan did not properly establish that, the court did not find that to be a reason to vacate the Project decision.

  • Van McGibney, et al., v. Missouri Department of Natural Resources

On September 24, 2020 the Circuit Court of Oregon County Missouri determined that lands acquired by the state can’t be used as a park because of restrictions in the federal Wild and Scenic Rivers easement, so the state must divest its ownership.  The lands are located near the Mark Twain National Forest.  Plaintiffs also owned land subject to the easement.  (Local reporting here and a viewpoint here:  “… the Judge reasoned that without unfettered public use of the land, it could not be a park. This defies both common conservation practices and common sense.”)

2 thoughts on “NFS Litigation Weekly October 9, 2020”

  1. What’s strikes me about the current status is that the idea is that if the FS didn’t look at an alternative that leaves out a different area (a procedural question about what alternatives “need to be” considered) that the rest of the decision shouldn’t go forward. It seems well.. kind of… arbitrary.

  2. You probably know the ins and outs of this better than I do. What I read is that if development of the Sunset roadless area occurs, it would preclude adopting an alternative roadless rule that would have protected this area.


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