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National Wildlife Fed'n v. Burford

Citation: 19 ELR 20968
No. Nos. 88-5397, -5291, 878 F.2d 422/(D.C. Cir., 06/20/1989) Rev'd

The court holds that an environmental organization has standing to challenge the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) decision to lift protective restrictions on 180 million acres of public land. The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) challenged BLM's implementation of its land withdrawal review program, under which BLM has terminated land withdrawals and classifications that remove federal land from the operation of various federal land disposal laws. In a footnote, the court holds that NWF has satisfied the causation and redressability requirements of standing. NWF's alleged injury is clearly caused by BLM's land withdrawal review program and could be redressed by modifications to the program. Further, NWF's claim is not based on a generalized grievance about the government's activities, but on concrete injury to its members. The court then holds that the affidavits submitted by NWF's members clearly established sufficient injury-in-fact to survive a summary judgment motion. One affidavit can be read to presume that the affiant uses the adversely affected land, and thus satisfies the injury-in-fact test. Even if the affidavit is ambiguous, any factual ambiguity must be resolved in favor of NWF for purposes of summary judgment. The court also holds that its prior decision finding standing in this litigation is the law of the case. That decision expressly held that the same affidavits now under consideration provide adequate grounds for NWF to establish irreparable harm at the preliminary injunction stage. Although the burden for obtaining standing on a motion for summary judgment is higher than on a motion to dismiss, the burden of establishing irreparable injury to support a preliminary injunction is at least as high as the burden of resisting a summary judgment motion. The court holds that the district court abused its discretion by refusing to consider the supplemental affidavits submitted by NWF. The equities of this case clearly would allow NWF to supplement the record to cure any alleged defects in standing. The court holds that a motion to intervene as a defendant filed by a company with mining claims on land made available under BLM's program is timely. BLM notified the company that its claims were void because of the district court's injunction. The company filed its motion only 73 days after receiving this notice. The court holds, however, that any other generalized claims that the company seeks to assert were not timely filed. BLM's publication in the Federal Register of the district court's preliminary injunction, although not specific enough to notify the company of the precise land affected, provided sufficient notice of any potential general challenges.

[The district court's decision is published at 19 ELR 20341. Other decisions in this litigation appear at 16 ELR 20422 and 20427, and 18 ELR 20328 and 20857. Briefs and other documents from this litigation are digested at ELR PEND. LIT. 65866, 65935, and 66039.]

Counsel for Appellant
Eldon V. C. Greenberg, Kathleen C. Zimmerman, Norman L. Dean Jr.
Galoway & Greenberg
1835 K St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 833-9084

Counsel for Appellees
Jacques Gelin
Land and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2762

Before: EDWARDS AND RUTH B. GINSBURG, Circuit Judges, and KAUFMAN,* Senior Judge.