Alliance filed suit under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), seeking to enjoin the Forest Service from constructing new roads in the Kootenai National Forest. The Ninth Circuit held that the 4.7 miles of roads at issue will not violate the Kootenai National Forest Plan because they will be blocked to prevent motorized access upon completion of the project; it was not arbitrary and capricious for the Forest Service to conclude that roads closed to motorized access by berms or barriers do not count toward linear miles of total roads under Standard II(B) of the Access Amendments; and because the Forest Service's interpretation of its own Forest Plan was reasonable, Alliance could not prevail on its NFMA, ESA, and NEPA claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed the district court's judgment in favor of defendants.

Court Description: Environmental Law. The panel affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of federal officials and agencies in an action brought by Alliance for the Wild Rockies under federal environmental laws seeking to enjoin the U.S. Forest Service from constructing 4.7 miles of new roads in connection with a Forest Service project in the Kootenai National Forest. In 2011, the Kootenai National Forest Plan was amended by the Forest Plan Amendments for Motorized Access Management within the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones (“Access Amendments”). Standard II(B) of the Access Amendments prohibited any net permanent increase in certain permanent roads. The panel held that the 4.7 miles of roads at issue would not violate the Kootenai National Forest Plan because they would be blocked to prevent motorized access upon completion of the Pilgrim Creek Timber Sale Project. The panel held that it was not arbitrary and capricious for the Forest Service to conclude that roads closed to motorized ALLIANCE FOR THE WILD ROCKIES V. BRADFORD 3 access by berms or barriers do not count toward “linear miles of total roads” under Standard II(B) of the Access Amendments. The panel concluded that because the Forest Service’s interpretation of its own Forest Plan was reasonable, Alliance for the Wild Rockies could not prevail on its National Forest Management Act, Endangered Species Act, and National Environmental Policy Act claims.

Source: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/14-35786/14-35786-2017-05-17.html


John Stewart
Editor, OutdoorWire.com
Vice President, BlueRibbon Coalition