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Friends of Walker Creek Wetlands v. BLM

Citation: 19 ELR 20852
No. No. 88-779-MA, (D. Or., 12/09/1988)

The court holds that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing to issue an environmental impact statement (EIS) for a proposed timber sale in Oregon, but also holds that the agency failed to provide for adequate public participation in the environmental assessment (EA) process. The BLM concluded, on the basis of its EA, that the timber sale would have no significant impact on the environment. The court first holds that the BLM adequately considered the cumulative impacts of the proposed sale and other sales in the area, even though no cumulative impacts analysis was included in the EA. The BLM reasonably concluded that the sale's effects on the hydrology, visual resources, and water quality of the area would be negligible. The court suggests that a categorical exclusion might have been applicable here, since the present timber sale is actually a follow-through of an earlier harvest. However, the court holds, the BLM must amend its timber sale EA to include or refer to the documentation of the agency's consideration of cumulative effects. The court next holds that the BLM was not required to prepare an EIS because of the controversial nature of the proposed sale, since the controversy here is limited. Plaintiff's position that the timber sale would adversely affect a rare plant species is supported by only slight expert testimony. In addition, the BLM mitigated any potential impact on another plant species by decreasing the sale area. The court also holds that the BLM's EA was adequate, since it considered the effects of the sale on Walker Creek, a vulnerable plant species, visual aesthetics, and the area's elk population. However, the court orders the BLM to incorporate or reference studies on which it relied that were not included in the EA. Next, the court holds that the BLM failed to provide for adequate public participation in the EA process and to give proper notice. There was no general public notice of the availability of the EA or of the agency's decision not to prepare an EIS. Notice of the sale itself does not satisfy NEPA's requirements, since the purpose of NEPA's public participation requirements is to ensure that environmental information is available on an agency's proposed action before the decision is made to undertake the action. The court orders the BLM to provide a 45-day comment period on the EA.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Richard A. Parrish
215 S.W. Washington St., No. 200, Portland OR 97204
(503) 228-5222

Ralph A. Bradley
Bradley & Gordon
296 E. Fifth Ave., Ste. 309, Eugene OR 97401
(503) 343-8247

Counsel for Defendants
Charles H. Turner, U.S. Attorney; Herbert C. Sundby, Ass't U.S. Attorney
312 U.S. Courthouse, 620 S.W. Main St., Portland OR 97205
(503) 221-2202

John B. Crowell
Spears, Lubersky, Bledsoe, Anderson, Young & Hilliard
520 S. Yamhill St., Ste. 800, Portland OR 97204
(503) 226-6151