Native Ecosystems Council v. Weldon

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 09-21-2012
  • Case #: 11-35659
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge M. Smith for the Court; Circuit Judges Reinhardt and Kleinfeld
  • Full Text Opinion

The United States Forest Service took the "hard look" required by the National Environmental Policy Act and considered the "relevant factors" required by the National Forest Management Act when it used photo interpretation methodology to analyze the effects of the Ettien Ridge Fuels Reduction Project on the elk hiding cover and goshawk population.

The Ettien Ridge Fuels Reduction Project ("the Project") is a project proposed by the United States Forest Service ("Forest Service") that involves cutting, logging, and burning in order to mitigate wildfire danger. Native Ecosystems Council filed suit alleging that the Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) because of the deleterious effects the Project has on the elk hiding cover and goshawk habitats. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service. Native Ecosystems Council appeals. The Court used the Administrative Procedure Act's (APA) "arbitrary and capricious" standard of review. The issue was whether the agency “relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to . . . the product of agency expertise.” Native Ecosystems Council's arguments and reasoning for its NEPA and NFMA claims were that the Forest Service's use of aerial photo interpretation (PI Type) methodology was invalid for assessing the true nature of the harm caused to elk hiding cover and to the goshawk population as a result of the Project. Under NEPA, an agency must consider the environmental impact of their actions and "must support its conclusions with studies that the agency deems reliable." Under NFMA, the Forest Service must "provide for diversity of plant and animal communities in managing national forests." "Given the paucity of Native Ecosystems Council’s factual distinctions," the Court held that "the Forest Service’s selection of the PI Type methodology did not violate NEPA" or the NFMA. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search