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Rosebud Sioux Tribe v. McCaleb

Citation: 32 ELR 20615
No. Nos. 00-2468, -2471, 286 F.3d 1031/(8th Cir., 04/05/2002)

The court vacates a district court order granting a permanent injunction restraining environmental groups and the government from interfering with the construction or operation of a multi-site hog production facility on tribal trust land. In 1998, a Native American tribe and a company agreed to negotiate a land lease for the development of the facility. Based on the environmental assessment for the project, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) issued a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) and authorized the tribe to sign the lease. After several environmental groups sued the federal government seeking to suspend or enjoin the BIA's approval of the lease, the BIA, in January 1999, sent a letter to the tribe voiding the lease because the FONSI did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The tribe and company filed suit and were granted a permanent injunction. The government and environmental groups appealed, arguing that the company lacked standing, and the tribe reversed its position and realigned itself with the appellants.

The court first holds that although the company satisfied the constitutionally mandated elements of standing, the interests the company seeks to protect do not fall within the zone of interests intended to be protected by the statutes in question. The company relies on three statutes—25 U.S.C. §§ 1(a), 18, and 415—involving the relationship between Native American tribes and the U.S. government. However, the three statutes were enacted to protect Native American interests, and it would be inconsistent to interpret them as giving legally enforceable rights to nontribal or nongovernmental parties whose interests conflict withthe tribe's interests. The court additionally holds that the company lacks standing under NEPA because the interests it seeks to protect are solely economic. The court further holds that the company failed to show how its economic interests fall within the zone of interests protected by the National Historic Preservation Act. In addition, the company's allegation of procedural injury does not satisfy the requirements of prudential standing. Consequently, the court vacates the district court's order granting a permanent injunction.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Terry L. Pechota
Viken, Viken, Pechota, Leach & Dewell
1617 Sheridan Lake Rd., Rapid City SD 57702
(605) 341-4400

Counsel for Defendants
Gregory A. Fontaine
Dorsey & Whitney
220 S. 6th St., Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 340-2600

Bye, J. Before Wollman,3 and Hansen,4 JJ.

3. The Honorable Roger L. Wollman stepped down as Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit at the close of business on January 31, 2002. He has been succeeded by the Honorable David R. Hansen.

4. The Honorable David R. Hansen became Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on February 1, 2002.