February-March 2021 litigation news

The last Forest Service litigation summary I’ve received and posted was dated March 5.  Here are a few more things that were going on around that time.


(Update.)  In this case involving livestock grazing on the Prescott, Coconino, and Tonto National Forests (introduced here), the federal district court for Arizona on February 20, 2021 refused to dismiss the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service from the lawsuit because of this regulatory language, which (despite written FWS policy that says otherwise) requires both them and the action agency to reinitiate consultation:  “Reinitiation of consultation is required and shall be requested by the Federal agency or by the Service” (noting the absence of a comma after “required”).

  • Middle Henrys project (Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. U.S. Forest Service)

(Settlement.) The Caribou-Targhee National Forest has withdrawn its decision on the Middle Henrys Aspen Enhancement Project after the lawsuit (and Notice of Intent to Sue under ESA) described here was filed.  The Forest Service declined to discuss the forest’s rationale for withdrawing the project other than saying “We couldn’t reach any kind of an agreement about some of their points.”

  • Castle Mountains project

(New lawsuit.)  The Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystems Council filed a lawsuit to halt the Castle Mountains logging and burning project on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, and associated road construction.  This article provides more information about the project, and plaintiffs’ “complaints” are here.

(Court decision.)  The “ongoing saga” of the Village of Wolf Creek continued with litigation about a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act.  On March 4, 2021, the federal district court for Colorado upheld the Forest Service’s choices of employees to contact, search terms used, locations searched, dates searched and its application of four FOIA exemptions.

  • Wayne fracking (Center for Biological Diversity v. U. S. Forest Service)

(Court decision.)  On March 13, 2020, the federal district court for the Southern District of Ohio held that the Forest Service and BLM violated NEPA when the Wayne National Forest granted fracking leases based largely on analysis done for the 2006 forest plan (posted here). As discussed here, the remedy now granted to plaintiffs is to prohibit new drilling permits and surface disturbance on existing leases and water withdrawal for any drilling that’s already occurring, but not rescind existing leases.  (The Forest Service has initiated revision of the Wayne forest plan.)


(Court decision.)  The Forest Service was a cooperating agency in a decision by USDA Wildlife Services for predator control in Colorado.  The federal court for the District of Colorado found that an EIS was unnecessary.

(Court decision.)  On January 28, 2020 the federal district court for the District of Columbia remanded the decision by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the northern long-eared bat as threatened rather than endangered (see this litigation summary).  As described here, on March 1, 2021, the court imposed a deadline of 18 months after completion of a species status assessment expected to done in May, 2021.  The species is found on 15 eastern national forests (this document includes a range map on p. 4).

  • Eastern hellbender

(Notice of Intent.)  On March 4, 2021, five conservation groups notified the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service of their intent to litigate the decision to not list the eastern hellbender as threatened or endangered.  It is found on eastern national forests, including the Nantahala-Pisgah, Sumter, Daniel Boone, Monongahela, and Allegheny.


3 thoughts on “February-March 2021 litigation news”

    • What I like about CBD is how honest they are. They don’t want fracking, so they say the NEPA doesn’t take a “hard enough” look… not the idea that “if only the FS and BLM did their NEPA correctly, we wouldn’t have a problem.” They don’t argue that the FS should analyze more, but that the project shouldn’t happen.

      Taylor McKinnon, a campaigner with co-plaintiff the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), said: “There’s a wide and dangerous chasm between the Biden administration’s climate rhetoric and its defense of unlawful fracking.”


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