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Montana Snowmobile Ass'n v. Wildes

Citation: 30 ELR 20381
No. No. 99-4-M-DWM, 103 F. Supp. 2d 1239/(D. Mont., 02/09/2000)

The court finds that a U.S. Forest Service letter enforcing a decision to close certain areas of Lolo National Forest to motorized use did not constitute final agency action subject to review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act. The Forest Service issued a forest plan for the Lolo National Forest in 1986 that banned motorized use in two areas of the forest, but maps issued at the time did not show that the areas were closed to motorized use. In 1998, due to a dramatic increase in the use of snowmobiles in the forest, the Lolo National Forest supervisor issued a letter restating the forest plan determination that the two areas were closed to motorized use. The court first holds that the adoption of the forest plan in 1986 and not the 1998 letter constituted final agency action on motorized use in the areas. The forest plan clearly prohibited motorized use in the two areas. The decisionmaking process under NEPA that led to the record of decision (ROD) adopting the forest plan was the final agency action in this case. Interested parties were placed on notice that motorized use was not allowed. The letter was not an amendment to the plan nor was it a new decision. It was an implementation of the standards governing management of the areas and an enforcement of the forest plan. The court next holds that the snowmobile association's challenge to the ban is untimely. The group filed its action 13 years after the ROD banning snowmobile use was adopted and nearly 7 years after the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (10 pp., ELR Order No. L-179).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Paul A. Turcke
Law Offices of Paul A. Turcke
999 W. Main St., Boise ID 83702
(208) 331-1800

Counsel for Defendants
Bill Mercer
U.S. Attorney's Office
P.O. Box 8329, Missoula MT 59807
(406) 542-8851