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Sierra Club v. Department of the Interior

Citation: 5 ELR 20514
No. No. C-73-0163-WTS, 398 F. Supp. 284/8 ERC 1013/(N.D. Cal., 07/16/1975) Judgment for plaintiffs

Following its denial of the Secretary of Interior's motion to dismiss, reported at 4 ELR 20444, 376 F. Supp. 90, the court here addresses the merits in this action to compel the Secretary to exercise his statutory authority, under the Redwood National Park Act, to protect the Park from damage caused by logging operations on private land surrounding and immediately adjacent to it. The Sierra Club has standing, for it was intimately involved in lobbying for creation of the Park and in monitoring its administration, and because its members' aesthetic, conservational and recreational interests are injured by the Secretary's alleged failure to protect the park's resources. The Act expressly vests the Secretary with power to protect the Park from damage due to peripheral logging operations, and since 1969, five studies commissioned by him have documented extensive damage from erosion, mud slides and siltation of tributory streams, all caused by clearcutting on lands adjacent to the Park. All five reports recommended creation of "buffer" zones in such areas, purchase of further Park acreage, and negotiation of management agreements or cooperative agreements with the adjacent landowners and logging companies. Nonetheless, it is found that the Secretary has done nothing to implement these recommendations save to enter into inadequate and nonbinding agreements with three timber companies and to commission yet another study. The Secretary's attempt to justify his inaction by citing lack of funds must be rejected, for he has never applied to Congress for funds to implement the recommendations. In light of these facts, the court concludes that defendants have arbitrarily, unreasonably and in abuse of their discretion failed to perform duties imposed by the National Park System Act and the Redwood National Park Act. Accordingly, defendants are ordered to take reasonable steps to perform such duties in order to afford full protection to the timber, soil and streams in the Park from adjacent logging operations, including implementing the above-mentioned recommendations to the extent reasonably necessary; defendants are further ordered to submit a progress report by December 15, 1975. The court retains jurisdiction over the case.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Michael R. Sherwood
John D. Hoffman
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
311 California St., Suite 311
San Francisco, Cal. 94104

Counsel for Defendants
Paul E. Lock Asst. U.S. Attorney
450 Golden Gate Ave., 16th Floor
P.O. Box 36055
San Francisco, Cal. 94102