Sierra Club v. Bureau of Land Mgmt.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 05-27-2015
  • Case #: 13-15383
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Rawlinson for the Court; Circuit Judge Tallman and Senior District Judge Dearie
  • Full Text Opinion

The Bureau of Land Management has a duty to initiate consultation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Services under the Endangered Species Act, as well as a duty to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act if a project is a federal action that is interrelated to another project.

North Sky River Energy, LLC (“North Sky”) wanted to develop a wind energy project (“Wind Project”) on private land. North Sky applied to the United States Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) for a right-of-way over federal land (“Road Project”) which would “connect the Wind Project to an existing state highway.” An “alternative route” was also presented (“Private Road Option”) that would create roads on private land only through stream alterations, bulldozing, and tree-clearing, all of which could have severe environmental impacts if carried out. North Sky rejected the Private Road Option for the Road Project so as to “utilize as much existing road as possible.” After reviewing the options, the BLM concluded that the Road Project would not have any environmental impact, and that the Private Road Option was a viable alternative to the Road Project. Since there was no environmental impact, the BLM therefore did not have to consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), or write an Environmental Impact Statement under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Sierra Club sued the BLM after it issued a permit for the Road Project, alleging that the right-of-way through federal land was a violation of the ESA and NEPA. The district court held in favor of the BLM. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that the BLM did not violate the ESA upon determining that consultation was not required under the ESA for the Wind Project because the federal Road Project and the private Wind Project were different projects that were not interrelated. Similarly, the panel held that the BLM did not violate the NEPA because the federal Road Project and the Wind Project were not connected actions and had independent unity. AFFIRMED.

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