Cascadia Wildlands v Bureau of Indian Affairs

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 09-11-2015
  • Case #: 14-35553
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Fisher for the Court; Circuit Judge Bea and Murguia
  • Full Text Opinion

The National Environmental Policy Act requires preparation of an Environmental Impact Study under circumstances that may affect human living conditions.

In 2013, The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) approved the Coquille Indian Tribe’s second project, the Kokwel Project, to harvest 268 acres of timber. The project's purpose was to raise money for the tribe. The BIA, the tribe, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) found that this would harmful to the northern spotted owl if the projects were commenced. However, the Environmental Assessment (EA) concluded that the owl's habitat would not diminish. The project was approved in February 2013 by the BIA without conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). At first, the BIA approved their first project without conducting an EIS, despite also finding an adverse impact on the northern spotted owl. The District Court granted summary judgement to both the BIA and the tribe. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed Cascadia claim that BIA and the tribe violated National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) because the impacts of the Kokwel project were not taken into consideration. The NEPA requires preparation of an EIS for “major Federal actions affecting the quality of the human environment.” Cascadia argued that the impact of the Alder/Rasler project would be aggregated by the Kokwel Project. However, the panel held that the NEPA was not violated though, reasoning that the Kowel EA assumed that present activities would continue into during future projects. Additionally, Cascadia claimed that the Kokwel project was in violation of the Coquille Restoration Act (CRA) because it is not consistent with the northern spotted owl’s FWS recovery plan. The panel, however, found that the CRA did not require the Kokwel Project to comply with it because it expresses an objective of compliance. AFFIRMED.

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