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Seattle Audubon Soc'y v. Moseley

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 20980
Nos. 95-35052 et al., 80 F.3d 1401/42 ERC 1568/(9th Cir., 04/10/1996) Aff'd forest plan

The court holds that the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management's choice of a forest management plan with an 80 percent species viability for federal lands that include northern spotted owl habitat did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The court first holds that the agencies complied with NEPA by fully evaluating a reasonable range of alternatives before making their final decision. An agency is under no obligation to consider every possible alternative to a proposed action, nor must it consider alternatives that are unlikely to be implemented or those inconsistent with its basic policy objectives. The agencies considered a "no harvest" alternative as part of their preliminary discussion but abandoned it as inconsistent with their need to find a balance between competing uses. The court next holds that the agencies reasonably interpreted and applied the NFMA's viability regulations in not selecting an alternative with a higher likelihood of species viability. That selection would preclude any multiple-use compromises contrary to the overall mandate of the NFMA. The court also holds that the agencies reasonably assumed in their cumulative-impact analysis that nonfederal lands would be managed to avoid harm to threatened species. Finally, the court holds that the district court did not violate the Declaratory Judgment Act by granting declaratory relief to the federal agencies. The resolution of claims filed against the agencies was both possible and desirable.

[A prior decision in this litigation is digested at 25 ELR 20712. Related decisions are published at 18 ELR 21210; 19 ELR 20366, 20367, 21230, and 21378; 21 ELR 20018, 20019, and 21341; 22 ELR 20372, 20889, and 21741; 23 ELR 21142 and 21148; and 24 ELR 20937. Briefs in this litigation are digested at ELR BRIEFS & PLEADS. 66336 and 66418. A brief in a related action is digested at ELR BRIEFS & PLEADS. 66229.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Stephen M. Tuitt
Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz
1300 19th St. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 828-1200

Counsel for Defendants
David C. Shilton
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before Goodwin, Schroeder, and Pregerson, JJ.