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Vance v. Block

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20967
Nos. No. CV-83-115-M, 635 F. Supp. 163/(D. Mont., 04/25/1986)

The court holds that a paving project for a 17-mile stretch of a river road in a national forest does not, standing alone, require the Forest Service to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS), nor is the project inextricably intertwined with area timber sales so as to require consideration in a single EIS, and the Forest Service's biological evaluation under the Engangered Species Act (ESA) was adequate. The court initially holds that the standard of review of an agency's decision not to prepare an EIS is one of reasonableness. The court holds that the Forest Service's decision not to prepare an EIS for the resurfacing project itself was reasonable, since the general character of the existing road was not altered by the project and the environmental assessment (EA) contained sufficient interdisciplinary input. The court next holds that the resurfacing project and the area timber sales are not connected or cumulative actions requiring consideration in a single EIS. Timber harvest would continue whether or not the existing road was paved, other groups besides the logging industry use the road, and future timber sales are subject to EAs and, if necessary, more complete EISs. Finally, the court holds that the Forest Service's ESA biological evaluation was sufficient. Although the Forest Service should have undertaken this evaluation when the EA was prepared, the court holds that this techical violation was de minimis, since a biological assessment on a nearby segment of the road and evidence at trial gave no indication that any endangered or threatened species would be affected.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Charles Sheroke
P.O. Box 1439, Coeur d'Alene ID 83814
(208) 667-9559

Karl J. Englund
401 N. Washington St., Missoula MT 59802
(406) 721-2729

Counsel for Defendant
George F. Darragh Jr., Asst. U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 3446, Rm. 212, Fed. Bldg.,
215 1st Ave. N., Great Falls MT 59401
(406) 453-2212