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Cabinet Mountains Wilderness v. Peterson

Citation: 11 ELR 20812
No. No. 80-2450, 510 F. Supp. 1186/15 ERC 2081/(D.D.C., 04/15/1981)

The court rules that the United States Forest Service violated neither the Endangered Species Act (ESA) nor the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by allowing a mineral exploration program to proceed in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness of Montana, which plaintiffs alleged is inhabited by a dozen grizzly bears, a threatened species under the ESA. In approving the exploration, the Forest Service issued no environmental impact statement; rather, it made an assessment that the plan would have no significant environmental impact. The Forest Service also concluded that the exploration plan, with mitigation measures, would not adversely modify the grizzly bears' habitat nor threaten their continued existence, and consequently that approval of the plan would not violate the ESA. Applying an "arbitrary and capricious" standard, the court concludes that the Forest Service had before it a wide range of scientific material and public comment, and that it reached a considered judgment based on all the information presented. The Forest Service complied with the ESA by imposing strict mitigation measures to protect the bears. The court also notes that further compliance with NEPA will be required if a mining program is proposed as a result of the exploratory drilling project.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Karin P. Sheldon
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
1424 K St. NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 347-1770

Counsel for Defendants
David B. Orlean, Maryann Walsh
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-5215

Counsel for Intervenor-Defendant ASARCO, Inc.
R. Brooke Jackson
Holland and Hart
Suite 1200, 1875 I St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 466-7340