Montana Wilderness Ass'n v. Connell

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 07-31-2013
  • Case #: 11-35818; 11-35821
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Partial Concurrence and Partial Dissent by Circuit Judges Gould; Circuit Judge Paez
  • Full Text Opinion

A Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) Resource Management Plan does not violate the Federal Land Policy and Management Act or the National Environmental Policy Act as degrading wilderness values absent a showing of evidence that its mapping and designation are fundamentally different from existing methods, but the BLM may violate the National Historic Preservation Act if it is not conducting its required Class III surveys.

Several environmental groups brought an action in district court challenging the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) Resource Management Plan (“RMP”) for the Upper Missouri River Breaks National Monument (“Monument”). The groups claimed that the RMP, which authorized roads, airstrips and motorboats in the Monument, violated the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), and the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all three claims. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the summary judgment on the FLPMA and NEPA claims, finding neither arbitrary or capricious decision-making nor evidence that the mapping and designation methods of the RMP were fundamentally different from existing methods. Because the record reflected that the RMP ways were designated as open and were mapped before the Monument RMP, the panel did not find evidence that the RMP would violate the nonimpairment mandate or would degrade wilderness values. Further, the panel did not believe that BLM’s off-road travel ban violated the FLPMA because it did not abuse its discretion when creating its definition of “roads.” The panel vacated the summary judgment regarding the NHPA claim, finding that the BLM was not conducting its required Class III surveys with respect to roads, airstrips and motorboats. On remand, instructions were given to enter judgment for the environmental groups on the NHPA claim and to enter an order requiring the BLM to conduct the required Class III surveys. AFFIRMED IN PART; REVERSED IN PART; REMANDED.

Advanced Search