Inland Empire Public Lands Council v. U.S. Forest Service, No. 95-35730

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtCYNTHIA HOLCOMB HALL
Citation88 F.3d 754
Parties96 Daily Journal D.A.R. 8062 INLAND EMPIRE PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL, a non-profit corporation; Montana Wilderness Association, a non-profit corporation; The Ecology Center, a non-profit corporation; American Wildlands, a non-profit corporation; Cabinet Resource Group, a non-profit corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, Defendant-Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 95-35730
Decision Date03 July 1996

Page 754

88 F.3d 754
96 Daily Journal D.A.R. 8062
INLAND EMPIRE PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL, a non-profit
corporation; Montana Wilderness Association, a non-profit
corporation; The Ecology Center, a non-profit corporation;
American Wildlands, a non-profit corporation; Cabinet
Resource Group, a non-profit corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, Defendant-Appellee.
No. 95-35730.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Feb. 6, 1996.
Decided July 3, 1996.

Page 756

Deborah A. Sivas, Inland Empire Public Lands Council, Palo Alto, California, and Patti A. Goldman, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Seattle, Washington, for plaintiffs-appellants.

Lisa E. Jones, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC, for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana, Charles C. Lovell, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. CV-94-00108-CCL.

Before: WRIGHT, HALL and TROTT, Circuit Judges.

CYNTHIA HOLCOMB HALL, Circuit Judge:

The United States Forest Service proposed eight timber sales in the Upper Sunday Creek Watershed region of the Kootenai National Forest in northwest Montana. The environmental impact statement it prepared

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in anticipation of the sales evaluated the project's impact on a number of "sensitive species" living in that region. Plaintiffs, a number of environmental groups, challenged the sale first in administrative hearings and ultimately in district court, claiming that the Service's analysis of the sale's impact on seven species--the lynx, boreal owl, flammulated owl, black-backed woodpecker, fisher, bull charr, and wet-sloped cutthroat trout--was inadequate under both the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1600, et seq., and the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 et seq. The district court concluded that the Service's analysis was sufficient and thereafter granted summary judgment for the Service and refused to enjoin the sales. In this expedited appeal, Plaintiffs now argue: (1) that the Service failed to comply with 36 C.F.R. § 219.19, which requires a minimum level of population viability analysis; and (2) that the Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act because the viability analysis it did perform only examined the effect of the timber sales on wildlife populations living within the project boundaries. Plaintiffs also request fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412.

The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and 28 U.S.C. § 2202. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 and affirm the decision of the district court.

I. Background

A. The National Forest Management Act

The National Forest Management Act ("NFMA"), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1600 et seq., requires the Secretary of Agriculture to develop land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest System. 16 U.S.C. § 1604(a). When the Secretary develops these plans, the NFMA requires him to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ("NEPA"), which in turn encompasses the duty to prepare environmental impact statements ("EISs"). 16 U.S.C. § 1604(g)(1); Idaho Conservation League v. Mumma, 956 F.2d 1508, 1511 (9th Cir.1992). The NFMA imposes substantive requirements as well, which have been promulgated as regulations. See 16 U.S.C. § 1604(g)(3); 36 C.F.R. §§ 219 et seq.

The NFMA envisions a two-stage approach to forest planning. Mumma, 956 F.2d at 1511; Sierra Club v. Espy, 38 F.3d 792, 795 (5th Cir.1994). At the first stage, "a team ... develops a proposed [Land Resource Management Plan ("LRMP") ] together with a draft and final EIS." Mumma, 956 F.2d at 1511 (citing 36 C.F.R. § 219.10(a) & (b)). Once the LRMP is approved, "[d]irect implementation of the LRMP occurs at a second stage, when individual site-specific projects are proposed and assessed." Id. at 1512. These site-specific projects must be consistent with the stage-one, forest-wide plan. Id.; Sierra Club, 38 F.3d at 795 ("Site specific analysis ... must be consistent with the LRMP."); 16 U.S.C. § 1604(i) ("Resource plans and permits, contracts, and other instruments for the use and occupancy of National Forest System lands shall be consistent with the land management plans."); 36 C.F.R. § 219.10(e) ("[T]he Forest Supervisor shall ensure that ... all outstanding and future permits, contracts, cooperative agreements, and other instruments for occupancy and use of affected lands are consistent with the plan.").

The forest and site-specific plans may be incorporated by reference, or "tiered"--so that the site-specific plan need not reiterate issues adequately discussed in the forest plan. See 40 C.F.R. 1508.28 ("Tiering is appropriate ... [f]rom a program, plan, or policy environmental impact statement to a program, plan, or policy statement or analysis of lesser scope or to a site-specific statement or analysis."); Sierra Club, 38 F.3d at 796; Headwaters, Inc. v. Bureau of Land Management, Medford Dist., 914 F.2d 1174, 1178 (9th Cir.1990). Both stages must, nevertheless, fully comply with the NFMA's regulations. See 16 U.S.C. § 1604(i) (requiring site-specific plans to be consistent with forest plans, which in turn must be consistent with NFMA's substantive requirements).

B. National Environmental Policy Act

The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requires agencies of the federal

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government to prepare an EIS whenever they propose to undertake any "major Federal action[ ] significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). The goal of NEPA is two-fold: (1) to ensure the agency will have detailed information on significant environmental impacts when it makes its decisions; and (2) to guarantee that this information will be available to a larger audience. Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 349, 109 S.Ct. 1835, 1845, 104 L.Ed.2d 351 (1989). NEPA's goal is satisfied once this information is properly disclosed; thus, NEPA exists to ensure a process, not to ensure any result. Id. at 350, 109 S.Ct. at 1846 ("[I]t is now well settled that NEPA itself does not mandate particular results, but simply prescribes the necessary process."); Sierra Club, 38 F.3d at 796.

C. Facts

The Kootenai National Forest is a 2.2 million acre tract of land nestled against the Salish Range of the Northern Rockies, in northwestern Montana. The Forest Service ("the Service") completed its stage-one, forest-wide plan for the Forest in 1987 (hereinafter "Kootenai Forest Plan"). Five years later, the Service entertained notions of selling timber from a 28,485 acre area of the Forest known as the Sunday Creek Watershed. By late 1992, the Service refined its plans and proposed eight timber sales from a 12,374 acre tract in the upper portion of the Watershed (hereinafter "Upper Sunday").

The Service prepared a site-specific EIS for the Upper Sunday area which contained seven alternative proposals for timber sales, and one no-action alternative. After a period of public comment, the Service decided to proceed with Alternative E-Modified. This alternative provided for the harvest of 13.7 million board feet of timber from, among other portions of the Upper Sunday area, 1,237 acres of mature (over 200 years old), interior forest called "old growth habitat." The Service prepared a supplemental Biological Assessment which discussed the effects of the chosen alternative on wildlife within the Upper Sunday area. In February 1994, the District Ranger signed the Record of Decision approving the Alternative E-Modified Plan. In April 1994, various groups appealed the District Ranger's decision. The Appeals Officer affirmed the District Ranger's approval of the timber sales, but ordered the Service to prepare additional documentation to support its environmental analysis before allowing it to continue with the sales.

Inland Empire Public Lands Council and other environmental groups (hereinafter "Plaintiffs") filed suit in district court on August 25, 1994. Plaintiffs alleged that the Service's Upper Sunday EIS was deficient and violated both NFMA and NEPA. Plaintiffs first contended that the EIS did not conduct a proper population viability analysis for the seven "sensitive" species living in the area: the lynx, boreal owl, black-backed woodpecker, flammulated owl, fisher, bull charr, and the wet-sloped cutthroat trout. 1 Plaintiffs claimed that the Service fell short of what the NFMA required because it never examined the species' population size, their population trends, or their ability to interact with other groups of the species living in neighboring patches of forest. The district court rejected this argument on summary judgment, reasoning that Plaintiffs were quibbling over the choice of scientific methodologies, a decision to which a reviewing court should defer.

Plaintiffs argued in the alternative that the Forest Service erred in confining its population viability analysis to the Upper Sunday area, rather than going beyond that area to examine the effect of the sales on populations of these species living on land "adjacent to" the project area. They claimed that this error violated the NEPA's "cumulative impact" requirement. See 40 C.F.R. § 1508.7. The district court granted the Service summary judgment on this issue as well, ruling that this, too, was a matter of methodology.

When the district court denied Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin

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the timber sales, Plaintiffs filed this expedited appeal.

II. Population Viability Analysis

Plaintiffs first claim that the district court erred in granting summary judgment on their claim that the Forest Service's Upper Sunday EIS violated the National Forest Management Act. We review de novo the district court's grant of summary judgment. Nevada Land Action Ass'n v. United States Forest Serv., 8 F.3d 713, 716 (9th Cir.1993).

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204 practice notes
  • Alliance v. United States Forest Serv., No. CV 05-107-M-DWM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • May 4, 2010
    ...whether “the agency has taken a ‘hard look’ at the environmental consequences.” Inland Empire Public Lands Council v. U.S. Forest Service, 88 F.3d 754, 763 (9th Cir.1996) (quoting Kleppe, 427 U.S. at 410 n. 21, 96 S.Ct. 2718). A court may not interject itself within the area of discretion o......
  • Habitat Educ. Center, Inc. v. Bosworth, No. 03C1024.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • August 8, 2005
    ...to evaluate each species individually." Utah Envtl. Cong., 372 F.3d at 1224 (citing Inland Empire Pub. Lands Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 88 F.3d 754, 762 (9th Cir.1996)). After selecting MIS, the agency evaluated how proposed actions would affect them "in terms of both amount and quality ......
  • Chilkat Indian Vill. of Klukwan v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., Case No. 3:17-cv-00253-TMB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • March 15, 2019
    ...than with the proper deference to agency processes, expertise, and decision-making").156 Inland Empire Pub. Lands v. U.S. Forest Serv. , 88 F.3d 754, 758 (9th Cir. 1996).157 Nw. Envtl. Def. Ctr. v. Bonneville Power Admin. , 117 F.3d 1520, 1536 (9th Cir. 1997).158 Bonneville , 117 F.3d at 15......
  • Curry v. U.S. Forest Service, No. Civ.A. 97-1081.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 15, 1997
    ...review in actions challenging timber sales under the APA. See, e.g., Inland Empire Public Lands Council v. United States Forest Service, 88 F.3d 754, 759-63 (9th Cir.1996); Seattle Audubon Soc'y v. Moseley, 80 F.3d 1401, 1404 (9th Cir.1996). (footnote omitted). Congress intended that the Fo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
204 cases
  • Alliance v. United States Forest Serv., No. CV 05-107-M-DWM
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Court (Montana)
    • May 4, 2010
    ...whether “the agency has taken a ‘hard look’ at the environmental consequences.” Inland Empire Public Lands Council v. U.S. Forest Service, 88 F.3d 754, 763 (9th Cir.1996) (quoting Kleppe, 427 U.S. at 410 n. 21, 96 S.Ct. 2718). A court may not interject itself within the area of discretion o......
  • Habitat Educ. Center, Inc. v. Bosworth, No. 03C1024.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District of Wisconsin
    • August 8, 2005
    ...to evaluate each species individually." Utah Envtl. Cong., 372 F.3d at 1224 (citing Inland Empire Pub. Lands Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 88 F.3d 754, 762 (9th Cir.1996)). After selecting MIS, the agency evaluated how proposed actions would affect them "in terms of both amount and quality ......
  • Chilkat Indian Vill. of Klukwan v. Bureau of Land Mgmt., Case No. 3:17-cv-00253-TMB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. District of Alaska
    • March 15, 2019
    ...than with the proper deference to agency processes, expertise, and decision-making").156 Inland Empire Pub. Lands v. U.S. Forest Serv. , 88 F.3d 754, 758 (9th Cir. 1996).157 Nw. Envtl. Def. Ctr. v. Bonneville Power Admin. , 117 F.3d 1520, 1536 (9th Cir. 1997).158 Bonneville , 117 F.3d at 15......
  • Curry v. U.S. Forest Service, No. Civ.A. 97-1081.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
    • October 15, 1997
    ...review in actions challenging timber sales under the APA. See, e.g., Inland Empire Public Lands Council v. United States Forest Service, 88 F.3d 754, 759-63 (9th Cir.1996); Seattle Audubon Soc'y v. Moseley, 80 F.3d 1401, 1404 (9th Cir.1996). (footnote omitted). Congress intended that the Fo......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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