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Glisson v. U.S. Forest Serv.

Citation: 28 ELR 21053
No. 97-2840, 138 F.3d 1181/(7th Cir., 03/13/1998)

The court upholds the U.S. Forest Service's interpretation of the term "native" and its environmental assessment (EA) for an ecological project in Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. The appellants argued that the ecological project will have an adverse effect on shortleaf pines and pine warblers in violation of a Forest Service regulation that requires the maintenance of viable populations of existing native species. The Forest Service interpreted "native" to mean native to the ecological project area and existing in a natural state. The court first holds that the Forest Service's interpretation of the term "native" in 36 C.F.R. § 219.19 is reasonable. Section 219.19 contains no definition of "native," and the court is required to uphold the Forest Service interpretation unless it is unreasonable. The court next holds that the EA's failure to mention the fact that the shortleaf pine is listed as an endangered species under Illinois law does not warrant reversal of the EA. An EA must discuss any inconsistency between a proposed action and local law, but is not required to bow to local law — only consider it. And if the Forest Service had considered Illinois law, it would doubtless have concluded that since Illinois approved the ecological project and never indicated that it considers the shortleaf pines endangered, the impact on the pines is not an adequate reason for blocking the project.

[Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 25 ELR 20300 and 21246.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Dr. Joseph Glisson
Rural Rte. 2, Box 84, Creal Springs IL 60293
(618) 966-2547

Counsel for Defendants
William Coonan, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
Nine Executive Dr., Ste. 300, Fairview Heights IL 62208
(618) 628-3700

Before Fairchild and Kanne, JJ.