The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the Forest Service in an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest.

The panel held that the Forest Service did not violate the plain terms of the Travel Management Rule absent authority requiring a strictly geographic interpretation of the words "limited" and "sparingly." Determining that plaintiffs had standing to bring their claims under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the panel held that the Forest Service took the requisite hard look and its determinations were neither arbitrary nor capricious. In this case, the Forest Service did not violate NEPA by declining to prepare environmental impact statements based on the plans' environmental impacts. Finally, the panel held that the Forest Service satisfied its procedural obligations under the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by conducting the required prefield work, consulting the appropriate entities, and reaching a determination consistent with the evidence before it.

Court Description: Environmental Law. The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the United States Forest Service in an action by plaintiff environmental groups challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service to permit limited motorized big game retrieval in three Ranger Districts of the Kaibab National Forest. The Travel Management Rule, promulgated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for Forest Service lands, generally prohibits off-road, motorized travel, but permits the “limited” use of motor vehicles within a specified distance of “certain” forest roads for the purposes of camping or retrieval of downed big game animals. The panel rejected plaintiffs’ contention that the Forest Service violated the Travel Management Rule by implementing plans that did not sufficiently limit motorized big game retrieval in the Ranger Districts. The panel concluded that In an action challenging travel management plans implemented by the Forest Service, the Forest Service followed the Travel Management Rule and fulfilled its procedural obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.

Source: Lexology


John Stewart
Editor, OutdoorWire.com
Resources Consultant, California Four Wheel Drive Association
Board of Directors, BlueRibbon Coalition