Pacific Rivers Council v. USFS

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 02-03-2012
  • Case #: 08-17565
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and N.R. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

The United States Forest Service failed to take the requisite “hard look” at environmental consequences in an Environmental Impact Statement because they failed to show why it was not reasonably possible to perform any analysis of those consequences.

This is an appeal of a 2004 decision by the United States Forrest Service (USFS) to amend the Sierra Nevada Forest Plan (The Plan). Pacific Rivers Council (PRC) challenges that the 2004 Environmental Impact Statement (2004 EIS) does not sufficiently analyze the impact that the 2004 plan amendments will have on fish and amphibians, violating the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Court concludes that USFS did violate NEPA in their analysis of fish, but not in their analysis of amphibians. The Court bases this conclusion on Land Council II, which states in part that an agency has acted in an arbitrary and capricious manor when an EIS entirely fails to consider an important aspect of a problem. Prior to the 2004 amendment to the Plan, USFS had previously amended the Plan in 2001. The 2001 EIS offered a detailed analysis of the environmental consequences on fish, while the 2004 EIS had no analysis. USFS argues that the 2004 EIS is sufficient because it is not reasonably possible to provide analysis on individual species because the Plan covers such a large area. They next argue that environmental consequences were incorporated by reference. The Court reject the first argument because the 2004 EIS had extensive analysis of non aquatic species, and the 2001 EIS had extensive analysis on fish, therefore it was reasonably possible that the 2004 EIS should address fish. Next, the Court concludes that the documents incorporated by reference should have been analyzed in the text of the EIS if they were intended to stand as an analysis of environmental consequences. The Court concludes that the analysis of amphibians in the 2004 EIS is sufficient to meet the requirements of NEPA.

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