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Pacific Rivers Council v. Thomas

ELR Citation: 25 ELR 20765
Nos. No. 94-0159-S-DAE, 873 F. Supp. 365/40 ERC 1595/(D. Idaho, 01/12/1995) Preliminary injunction issued

The court preliminarily enjoins the U.S. Forest Service from funding, permitting, or announcing new, ongoing, or announced timber sales, range activities, mining activities, or road-building projects in six national forests in Idaho pending completion of formal consultation between the Forest Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on the effects of land and resource management plans (LRMPs) on endangered salmon species. After the salmon species were listed as endangered and threatened, the Forest Service did not reinitiate consultation on the LRMPs, as ESA §7(a)(2) requires. The court first notes that plaintiffs' challenge to the Forest Service's failure to consult with NMFS under §7(a)(2) on the effects of the LRMPs on endangered salmon species is moot because the Forest Service has reinitiated consultation with the NMFS. The Forest Service, however, reinitiated consultation only because of a Ninth Circuit ruling in Pacific Rivers Council v. Thomas, 24 ELR 21367 (1994), has in effect ordered it to do so. Therefore, rather than grant summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service, the court holds that plaintiffs are entitled to a pronouncement that the Forest Service must reinitiate consultation with the NMFS on the six LRMPs at issue in this case. The court next concludes that it should grant plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunctive relief. Plaintiffs alleged significant violations of the ESA and have made a sufficient showing of probable success on the merits. Moreover, the potential harm to endangered species satisfies the required showing of irreparable injury. The injunction will remain in effect until all questions surrounding Forest Service compliance with the ESA have been resolved and/or until the Forest Service fully complies with all legal requirements. Addressing the appropriate scope of the injunction, the court enjoins the Forest Service from announcing, awarding, permitting, or conducting any new timber sales, range activities, mining activities, or road-building projects until it completes formal consultation on the LRMPs. Although case law suggests that some ongoing activities may continue during the consultation period, they may continue under ESA §7(d) only if the activities do not involve irreversible or irretrievable commitments of resources. The court also enjoins all ongoing and announced timber sales, range activities, mining activities, or road-building project activities, since there is no detailed information on individual projects before the court. Finally, the court also enjoins all mining activities until the Forest Service completes consultation on the LRMPs. Although the National Forest Management Act does not mandate that LRMPs include mining activities, LRMPs would be meaningless with respect to effective fish, habitat, and water management if mining activities were not factored into long-range plans. Also, mining activities are in fact discussed in the LRMPs, and the Forest Service has well-established authority over mining activities within national forests.

[The district court's decision dissolving the injunction is published at 25 ELR 20809.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Laird J. Lucas
Land and Water Fund of the Rockies
408 W. Idaho St., 2d Fl., Boise ID 83702
(208) 342-7024

Counsel for Defendants
D. Marc Haws, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
328 U.S. CtHse., 550 W. Fort St., Boise ID 83724
(208) 334-1211