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Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, Inc. v. Watson

Citation: 12 ELR 20188
No. No. J81-12, 526 F. Supp. 202/16 ERC 1972/(D. Alaska, 11/13/1981) Preliminary injunction continued

The court rules that § 503(h) of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) requires the U.S. Forest Service to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) before approving amendments to the bulk sampling phase of U.S. Borax's plan of operations for mining activities within the Misty Fjords National Monument. Initially, the court rules that plaintiff has standing to maintain the lawsuit because its members use the project area and the project's adverse environmental consequences may be overlooked unless an EIS is prepared. In addition, the court rules that the scope of its review is limited to the administrative record and that review of the Forest Service's decision not to prepare an EIS is governed by a reasonableness standard. Turning to the merits, the court rules that under § 503(h)(3) of the ANILCA, which specifically addresses U.S. Borax's proposals involving an access road for bulk sampling and the bulk sampling phase of the project, an access road rather than helicopter access must be used to accomplish bulk sampling. Furthermore, the court holds that § 503(h)(3) requires preparation of a single EIS for both construction of an access road and the bulk sampling phases, even though the phases will not occur concurrently as envisioned by Congress. The EIS must precede authorization of either an access road or bulk sampling without an access road. Finally, the court rules that the Forest Service's failure to prepare an EIS prior to its approval of U.S. Borax's 1980-1983 amendments was without a reasonable basis since the record indicates that the amendments are likely to involve bulk sampling. Therefore, the court orders the Forest Service to prepare an EIS if it determines that the amendments encompass bulk sampling.

Counsel listed at 12 ELR 20187.