Pacific Rivers Council v. USFS

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 06-20-2012
  • Case #: 08-17565
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge W. Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judge Reinhardt; Dissent by Circuit Judge N. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

An Environmental Impact Statement related to proposed changes of a forest regulated by the National Forest Management Act must, where "reasonably possible," take a "hard look" at the environmental consequences on wildlife likely to be affected by changes to the land.

This opinion replaces a prior opinion filed on February 3, 2012. The Pacific Rivers Council (“Pacific Rivers”) brought suit against the United States Forest Service (“USFS”), and other individuals acting in their official capacity with the USFS, challenging the 2004 Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) prepared for the forests in the Sierra Nevada Mountains as inconsistent with the National Environmental Procedure Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. Pacific River alleged that the 2004 EIS did not “sufficiently analyze the environmental consequences of the 2004 Framework for fish and amphibians.” The challenged 2004 plan significantly increased allowances for logging and related activities, and reduced grazing restrictions included in the 2001 plan. Further, the 2004 plan’s impact statement relating to the effects on certain wildlife was not as detailed as the 2001 plan. The district court granted summary judgment for the USFS. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit considered two issues: (1) whether Pacific Rivers had standing to bring its action under Article III of the Constitution; and (2) whether the 2004 EIS sufficiently addressed the effects on fish and amphibians. First, the Court found a “significant concrete interest” between Pacific Rivers’ enjoyment of the Sierras and the effects of the 2004 plan to recognize standing under Article III. Second, the Court concluded that it was “reasonably possible” for the USFS to “provide some analysis of the environmental consequences on individual fish species” in the 2004 EIS, and that the USFS “failed to take the requisite ‘hard look’” at the 2004 plan’s effects on fish. However, the USFS did take a “hard look” at the effects on amphibians. REVERSED in part, AFFIRMED in part, and REMANDED.

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