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Kettle Range Conservation Group v. BLM

Citation: 28 ELR 21426
No. 98-35516, 150 F.3d 1083/47 ERC 1156/(9th Cir., 07/20/1998)

The court dismisses environmental groups' motion for emergency injunctive relief seeking to rescind a land exchange contract between the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and private parties because they failed to join necessary parties. The groups filed their motion for emergency injunctive relief pending the appeal of a district court decision that held it was without authority to rescind the contract in the absence of joinder of the private parties. The groups neither joined nor made any effort to join the private entities to whom title to the public lands has been conveyed. The court first holds that once the private parties took title, they became necessary parties to the groups' National Environmental Policy Act suit against the federal government. Under Fed. R. Civ. P. 19(a), the private parties holding title to the lands were necessary because the district court could not grant complete relief without impairing or impeding their interests. The court next holds that the groups' appeal is not amenable to the public rights exception to the usual rule of joinder. Here, title to the land already transferred has vested in the private parties. Thus, an order declaring the executed portion of the land exchange void ab initio would destroy the legal entitlements of the absent parties. Last, the court notes that restoring the denuded land to the United States and compelling the government to return the natural land it received in exchange may well not serve the public interest. Any such effort might produce results that are not in fact equitable, particularly because some of the timber may have been cut.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Marianne G. Dugan
Western Environmental Law Center
1216 Lincoln St., Eugene OR 97401
(503) 485-2471

Counsel for Defendant
James R. Shively, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
U.S. CtHse.
920 W. Riverside Ave., Ste. 300, Spokane WA 99201
(509) 353-2767

Before Reinhardt, Thompson, and Leavy, JJ.

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