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Wyoming Timber Indus. Ass'n v. U.S. Forest Serv.

Citation: 30 ELR 20289
No. No. 99-CV-1016-B, 80 F. Supp. 2d 1245/49 ERC 2095/(D. Wyo., 01/13/2000)

The court holds that a timber association lacks standing under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to challenge the U.S. Forest Service's promulgation of an interim final rule that suspends road construction decisionmaking for 18 months in certain unroaded areas within the National Forest System. The association claimed that because the suspension results in a de facto wilderness management state for roadless areas, the rule violates the Wyoming Wilderness Act, which provides that roadless areas not designated as wilderness shall be managed for multiple use.

The court first holds that the association's members suffered no recreational or aesthetic injuries. The alleged recreational and aesthetic injuries belong to the employees of the association's member companies, not to the association's actual members. Moreover, the association failed to make the required showing that its alleged recreational and aesthetic interests are germane to its organizational purposes. The court, however, then holds that the association's members suffered an economic injury-in-fact sufficient to meet Article III requirements as a result of reductions or delays in timber sales, even if the member companies had no legal right to harvest timber on National Forest lands. The court also holds that the fact that it cannot fashion a remedy creating a substantial likelihood that the Forest Service will offer additional timber for sale does not, by itself, deprive the association of standing. To establish standing, the association must prove that the timber companies possessed a procedural right and that the procedural right was designed to protect the companies' concrete interest in timber harvesting within Wyoming's national forests.

Nevertheless, the court holds that the association did not possess a procedural right to participate in NFMA planning procedures as a prerequisite to the Forest Service's implementation of a temporary road construction moratorium. The Forest Service has the right to proceed via rulemaking in lieu of forest plan modification. Therefore, the association's claimed procedural injury is to a nonexisting right and cannot suffice as grounds for standing. Similarly, the association has no procedural injuries under NEPA. The association's economic interest in increased timber harvesting does not fall within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by NEPA.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (13 pp., ELR Order No. L-165).

Counsel for Petitioners
John D. Ward
Law Offices of John D. Ward
40 S. Main St., Sheridan WY 82801
(307) 672-8363

Counsel for Respondents
Carol A. Statkus, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
2120 Capitol Ave., Rm. 4002, Cheyenne WY 82001
(307) 772-2124