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Foundation for N. Am. Wild Sheep v. Department of Agric.

Citation: 12 ELR 20968
No. No. 81-5044, 681 F.2d 1172/18 ERC 1033/(9th Cir., 07/22/1982)

The Ninth Circuit rules that the U.S. Forest Service's decision not to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) prior to granting a special use permit for the reconstruction and use of a road through the Angeles National Forest violates the National Environmental Policy Act. The road passes directly through an area occupied by a herd of desert bighorn sheep protected under state and federal law. Applying a reasonableness test, the court rules that the environmental assessment (EA) failed to adequately consider the impact upon the sheep of the proposed action. The EA contained no estimate of the volume of traffic likely to pass along the road and ignored other factors essential to an informed decision on whether the project might have significant environmental impacts and thus require an EIS. The court also rules that appellees' conclusion that the mitigation measures identified in the EA would reduce the project's impact to insignificant levels was unreasonable because the EA left open substantial questions concerning the specific and overall effects of those measures. Finally, the court rules that appellees violated Forest Service regulations which provide that the existence of a substantial dispute as to the effect of a project is relevant to a determination of whether to prepare an EIS. The number of expert, substantive criticisms of the draft EA establishes that the proposal is a controversial one for which an EIS should have been prepared.

Counsel for Appellants
Patrick J. Marley
4929 Wilshire Bldg., Suite 255, Los Angeles CA 90010
(213) 934-8666

Counsel for Appellees
Howard Gest, Ass't U.S. Attorney
312 N. Spring St., Rm. 1153, Los Angeles CA 90012
(213) 688-5711

Before ELY and CANBY, Circuit Judges, and EAST,* District Judge.