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Minnesota Fed'n of Ski Touring Clubs v. Knebel

Citation: 7 ELR 20531
No. No. 4-76 Civ. 169, (D. Minn., 01/18/1977)

The court upholds the Secretary of Agriculture's decision to ban the use of snowmobiles in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA), the second largest unit in the National Wilderness Preservation System, and the Forest Service Chief's discretionary authority to permit or prohibit snowmobiling in the BWCA. Plaintiffs had moved for summary judgment, contending that the use of snowmobiles was prohibited as a matter of law rather than subject to administrative discretion. Plaintiffs in intervention sought a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ban on the grounds that since the Wilderness Act permitted continued snowmobiling in the BWCA, the Secretary's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and not supported by substantial evidence. The decision banning snowmobiles was the culmination of a time-consuming administrative process involving public hearings, ample time for comment, and a lengthy record. Questioning plaintiffs' standing but finding it unnecessary to resolve the issue, the court denies their motion for summary judgment and dismisses the complaint. Although the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1131-1136, ELR 41412, prohibits snowmobiles in designated wilderness areas, a special BWCA provision created by Congress because of existing uses at the time the Act was passed establishes an exception by providing that the Secretary shall manage the BWCA in his discretion so as to maintain its primitive character. This special status of the BWCA in the wilderness system is consistent with the Eighth Circuit's decision in MPIRG v. Butz, 6 ELR 20736 (1976). The intervening plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction is denied because there is neither a probability of success on the merits nor a showing of irreparable injury if the injunction does not issue. Intervenors' argument as to their understanding of the BWCA statutory exception is neither persuasive nor supported by legislative history. Furthermore, there is adequate evidentiary support in the record for the Secretary's decision.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Charles K. Dayton, James A Payne
Dayton, Herman & Graham
Midland Bank Bldg., Minneapolis MN 55401
(612) 339-7633

Counsel for Defendants
Robert G. Renner, U.S. Attorney; Francis X. Hermann, Ass't U.S. Attorney
596 U.S. Courthouse, 110 S. 4th St., Minneapolis MN 55401
(612) 781-7430

Counsel for Plaintiffs Intervenors, Coalition of Minnesota Snowmobile Organizations International Snowmobile Industry Association
Robert A. Schwartzbauer, Mark A. Jarboe, William Jobe
Dorsey, Windhorst, Hannaford, Whiney & Halladay
2300 First Nat'l Bank Bldg. Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 340-2600