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Northern Alaska Envtl. Ctr. v. Hodel

Citation: 17 ELR 20015
No. No. 86-3535, 803 F.2d 466/(9th Cir., 10/23/1986) Aff'd

The court holds that the National Park Service's (NPS's) voluntary compliance with a district court injunction renders moot a challenge to the lower court's order that the NPS must prepare cumulative environmental impact statements (EISs) on the effects of mining operations in three national parks in Alaska, and the NPS must separately consider the issue of access across park lands to the mining inholdings. The court first holds that all miners who have submitted mining operations plans to the NPS are not necessary parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19(a). The miners' absence will not preclude the court from fashioning a meaningful remedy among plaintiffs, defendants, and intervenor mining association. Moreover, the absent miners do not have the requisite legally protected interest in the subject matter of this case, since they have no legal entitlement to a particular set of NPS procedures. The court next holds that the NPS's intent to comply with the district court's order to prepare EISs on the cumulative effects of mining in the three parks renders this issue moot, and declines to consider intervenor's argument that the court may not require cumulative EISs where the NPS has not yet prepared an environmental assessment.

The court holds that the NPS must separately consider the question of access across park lands in each mining permit application. Intervenor misconstrues the district court's holding to require separate access permits; the lower court properly held only that the NPS must separately consider access issues. The NPS's own access regulations "independently require an approved plan of operations," and the district court's interpretation of this section to require separate consideration of access issues was reasonable. The court holds that the lower court's consideration of the validity of an NPS regulation that allows the Service to grant temporary approvals of mining operations under certain circumstances is ripe for review. The court, which had prohibited the NPS from granting any further temporary approvals absent court approval, necessarily had to address the validity of the regulation. Finally, the court upholds the lower court's preliminary injunction. The factual findings on which the injunction was based are not clearly erroneous, the court properly balanced the hardships, and the court has broad discretion in fashioning injunctive relief.

[The district court's decisions are published at 15 ELR 21048 and 16 ELR 20244.]

Counsel for Defendant
Martin M. Matzen
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-4426

Counsel for Defendant-Intervenor-Appellant
James S. Burling, Robin L. Rivett
Pacific Legal Foundation
555 Capitol Mall, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 444-0154

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
Philip S. Barrett
Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund, Inc.
419 6th St., Suite 321, Juneau AK 99801
(907) 586-2751

Before Farris and Letts,* JJ.