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Headwaters, Inc. v. BLM

Citation: 19 ELR 21159
No. No. 89-6016, (D. Or., 05/03/1989, 05/23/2089)

The court holds that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was not required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (EIS) after the discovery of new information regarding the presence of nesting northern spotted owls in an old-growth timber sale area in Oregon. The court initially holds that a congressional continuing budget resolution prohibiting judicial review of BLM timber management plans solely on the basis of new information does not preclude review of plaintiff's claim. After noting that the Supreme Court's recent holdings in Marsh v. Oregon Natural Resources Council, 19 ELR 20749, and Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 19 ELR 20743, establish an arbitrary and capricious standard for a federal agency's decision not to supplement an EIS, the court holds that plaintiff has not met the requirements for a preliminary injunction halting the challenged timber sale. The new information did not require the BLM to supplement the EIS, since earlier NEPA documents encompassing the sale area did consider the impacts of logging old-growth forests on the spotted owl. Further, under the Marsh decision, the agency is not required to prepare supplemental materials for all new information, and in factual disputes requiring substantial technical expertise, the reviewing courts should largely defer to the agency. The court next holds that the BLM adequately considered the cumulative impacts of the timber sale on the spotted owl, soil erosion, and water quality in its earlier NEPA documents. The court also holds that the BLM adequately addressed measures to mitigate the effects of the sale on the spotted owl, since the sale contract allows BLM to halt logging until further notice if a spotted owl nest is discovered. The court holds that BLM did not violate NEPA by tiering the environmental assessment (EA) for the sale area to a programmatic EIS. Although the area in question is not homogenous, the site-specific timber sale EA and the programmatic timber management plan EIS together are sufficient. The court next holds that the BLM adequately considered reasonable alternatives and the no action alternative. Both the EA and the EIS contained a range of alternatives and public comment was invited. Additionally, the court holds that a site-specific multiple-use analysis for the public domain lands within the sale area is not required by either the Federal Land Policy and Management Act or the Administrative Procedure Act. The court holds that the BLM has not violated the Oregon and California (O & C) Lands Act, since O & C lands are to be managed with timber production as the dominant use. The court finally holds that the laches defense is not available to BLM.

[Decisions in related litigation are published at 19 ELR 21177 and 21230.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Charles G. Levin
Headwaters, Inc.
P.O. Box 1075, Grants Pass OR 97526
(503) 474-6034

Counsel for Defendants
Charles H. Turner, U.S. Attorney; Thomas C. Lee, Roger Nesbit, Ass't U.S. Attorneys
312 U.S. Courthouse, 620 SW Main, Portland OR 97205
(503) 221-2101

Amended Opinion and Order

I. Introduction

Plaintiff brings this action for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Medford District; David A. Jones, District Manager; Croman Corporation, and intervenor Association of O & C Counties (O & C).