Granat v. U.S. Dep't of Agric.

Citation238 F.Supp.3d 1242
Decision Date01 March 2017
Docket NumberNo. 2:15–cv–00605–MCE–DB,2:15–cv–00605–MCE–DB
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of California
Parties Amy GRANAT, et al., Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, et al., Defendants.

238 F.Supp.3d 1242

Amy GRANAT, et al., Plaintiffs,

No. 2:15–cv–00605–MCE–DB

United States District Court, E.D. California.

Signed March 1, 2017
Filed March 2, 2017

238 F.Supp.3d 1245

Damien Michael Schiff, Theodore Cirilo Hadzi–Antich, Pacific Legal Foundation, Sacramento, CA, for Plaintiffs.

Davene Dashawn Walker, John Tustin, U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Divison Natural Resources Section, Washington, DC, Lynn Trinka Ernce, United States Attorney's Office, Sacramento, CA, for Defendants.



Plaintiffs Amy Granat, Corky Lazzarino, the Sierra Access Coalition, the California Off–Road Vehicle Association, and the Counties of Butte and Plumas filed this action against numerous federal defendants

238 F.Supp.3d 1246

challenging the United States Forest Service's 2010 decision to close hundreds of miles of roads in the Plumas National Forest to motorized vehicles. Presently before the Court are Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment ("MSJ") and Defendants' Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 31, 37.1 For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' motion is DENIED and Defendants' motion is GRANTED.2


In 2005, the U.S. Forest Service issued the Travel Management Rule. Travel Management, 70 Fed. Reg. 68,264 (Nov. 9, 2005) (codified at 36 C.F.R. pts. 212, 251, 261, 295). Relevant to the current litigation, that rule requires the Forest Service to designate a system of roads, trails, and areas open to motor vehicle use by vehicle type and time of year. 36 C.F.R. § 212.50(a). "After these roads, trails, and areas are designated, motor vehicle use, including the class of vehicle and time of year, not in accordance with these designations is prohibited...." Id.

Prior to the enactment of the Travel Management Rule, Plumas National Forest contained approximately 4,267 miles of routes that were designated as part of the National Forest Transportation System ("NFTS"): 4,137 miles of National Forest Service roads and 130 miles of National Forest Service motorized trails. PLU–B–000053.3 The Forest also contained user-created routes. The Forest Service identified approximately 1,107 miles of such routes. PLU–B–000052. In December 2006, the Forest Service closed Plumas National Forest to cross-country motor vehicle travel—including on the user-created routes—while it began implementing the portions of the Travel Management Rule relevant to this lawsuit. PLU–C–002315.

The Forest Service held a series of public workshops and public meetings, as well as solicited public comment, to help determine which of the user-created routes should be added to the NFTS. See PLU–B–000058 to –000059. By April 2007, the Forest Service completed a "first cut" route map, consisting of 220 miles of routes. PLU–B–000058. The Forest Service then held another series of public meetings and workshops, allowing the public to identify routes to be considered for inclusion in the NFTS, leading the Forest Service to expand its consideration to 410 miles of routes. PLU–B–000058, –000081.

In December 2008, the Forest Service released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement ("DEIS"). PLU–B–000649. After another period of public comments, the Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement ("FEIS") in August 2010. PLU–B–000039. Those documents considered four action alternatives in detail for potential additions to the NFTS, as well as a no-action alternative. On August 30, 2010, the Forest Service released the Record of Decision, which selected Action Alternative 5 from the evaluated alternatives. PLU–B–000014 to

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–000016, –000028. The decision added 234 miles of motorized trails to the extant 130 miles of motorized trails. PLU–B–000017 to –000018.

On March 18, 2015, Plaintiffs filed the instant suit, challenging the procedures used to implement the resultant Motorized Travel Management Plan. Compl., ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs are individuals who visit Plumas National Forest, as well as organizations that represent visitors to the Forest. Plaintiff Amy Granat has visited the Forest since 2001. Decl. of Amy Granat, ECF No. 31–4, ¶ 15. She suffers from a disability that limits her ability to walk, and alleges that the Motorized Travel Management Plan drastically reduced her ability to enjoy the Forest by limiting the areas she can reach by motor vehicle. Id. ¶¶ 15–16. Plaintiff Corky Lazzarino also visits Plumas National Forest, and claims that the Motorized Travel Management Plan limits her ability to access parts of the Forest she previously enjoyed. Decl. of Corky Lazzarino, ECF No. 31–5, ¶¶ 9–10. Plaintiff California Off–Road Vehicle Association ("CORVA") is a non-profit corporation, whose members have been prevented from using user-created routes that were not added to the NFTS for motorized recreation. Decl. of Granat, ¶¶ 2, 7. Plaintiff Sierra Access Coalition is an organization representing its members who previously used routes that were not added to the NFTS. Decl. of Lazzarino, ¶¶ 3, 5.

Plaintiffs also include two governmental bodies: Plumas County and Butte County. Approximately 975,000 acres of the Plumas National Forest are located within Plumas County, while approximately 100,000 acres are located within Butte County. Decl. of Robert Armand Perreault, Jr., ECF No. 31–6, ¶ 4; Decl. of John Michael Crump, ECF No. 31–3, ¶ 4. Both claim that the Motorized Travel Management Plan limits the ability of their citizens to access Plumas National Forest. Decl. of Perreault, ¶ 5; Decl. of Crump, ¶ 5. Plumas County also claims the Motorized Travel Management Plan reduces tourism and thereby harms its citizens who rely on tourism for income, as well as the County's own tax revenues on that income. Decl. of Perreault, ¶ 6.

Defendants are the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Forest Service (a subdivision of the Department of Agriculture), and various officers of the Department of Agriculture and Forest Service in their official capacities.


Congress enacted NEPA in 1969 to protect the environment by requiring certain procedural safeguards before an agency takes action affecting the environment. The NEPA process is designed to "ensure that the agency ... will have detailed information concerning significant environmental impacts; it also guarantees that the relevant information will be made available to the larger [public] audience." Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project v. Blackwood , 161 F.3d 1208, 1212 (9th Cir. 1998) (alterations in original) (quoting Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens , 490 U.S. 332, 349, 109 S.Ct. 1835, 104 L.Ed.2d 351 (1989) ). The purpose of NEPA is to "ensure a process, not to ensure any result." Id. "NEPA emphasizes the importance of coherent and comprehensive up-front environmental analysis to ensure informed decision-making to the end that the agency will not act on incomplete information, only to regret its decision after it is too late to correct." Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Serv. , 349 F.3d 1157, 1166 (9th Cir. 2003). Complete analysis under NEPA also assures that the public has sufficient information to challenge the agency's decision. Methow Valley Citizens , 490 U.S. at 349, 109 S.Ct. 1835 ;

238 F.Supp.3d 1248

Idaho Sporting Cong. v. Thomas , 137 F.3d 1146, 1151 (9th Cir. 1998).

NEPA requires that all federal agencies, including the Forest Service, prepare a "detailed statement" that discusses the environmental ramifications, and alternatives, to all "major Federal Actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(c). An agency must take a "hard look" at the consequences, environmental impacts, and adverse environmental effects of a proposed action within an environmental impact statement ("EIS"), when required. Kleppe v. Sierra Club , 427 U.S. 390, 410 n.21, 96 S.Ct. 2718, 49 L.Ed.2d 576 (1976).

Given its status as a statutory scheme safeguarding procedure rather than substance,4 NEPA does not mandate that an EIS be based on a particular scientific methodology, nor does it require a reviewing court to weigh conflicting scientific data. Friends of Endangered Species, Inc. v. Jantzen , 760 F.2d 976, 986 (9th Cir. 1985). An agency must be given discretion in relying on the reasonable opinions of its own qualified experts, even if the court might find contrary views more persuasive. See, e.g. , Kleppe , 427 U.S. at 420, n.21, 96 S.Ct. 2718. NEPA does not allow an agency to rely on the conclusions and opinions of its staff, however, without providing both supporting analysis and data. Idaho Sporting Cong. , 137 F.3d at 1150. Credible scientific evidence that contraindicates a proposed action must be evaluated and disclosed. 40 C.F.R. § 1502.9(b).

Because NEPA itself contains no provisions allowing a private right of action, see Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n , 497 U.S. 871, 882, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990), a party can obtain judicial review of alleged violations of NEPA only under the waiver of...

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2 cases
  • Idaho State Snowmobile Ass'n v. U.S. Forest Serv.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Idaho
    • February 10, 2021
    ...see Marsh, 490 U.S. at 378, any expert opinions must be supported by "both [] analysis and data." Granat v. United States Dep't of Agric., 238 F. Supp. 3d 1242, 1248 (E.D. Cal. 2017), aff'd, 720 F. App'x 879 (9th Cir. 2018). So, while the Forest Service's expert, David Skinner, opined that ......
  • Sierra Trail Dogs Motorcycle & Recreation Club v. U.S. Forest Serv.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Nevada
    • July 6, 2020
    ...areas nonwilderness. See Block , 690 F.2d at 760.Moreover, the Court agrees with Federal Defendants that Granat v. U.S. Department of Agriculture , 238 F. Supp. 3d 1242 (E.D. Cal. 2017) is more analogous to this case, and provides persuasive authority supporting Defendants’ position that no......
1 books & journal articles
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Vol. 51 No. 1, March 2021
    • March 22, 2021
    ...of alternatives and failed to address the cumulative effects related to its travel management plan); Granat v. U.S. Dep't of Agric, 238 F. Supp. 3d 1242, 1251-54, 1257 (E.D. Cal. 2017) (rejecting motorized recreational group's NEPA claims that agency did not consider adequate range of alter......

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