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Ozark Chapter/Sierra Club v. Thomas

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21396
Nos. 1:96 CV 12 SNL, 924 F. Supp. 103/(E.D. Mo., 05/03/1996)

The court holds that the Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior have sole discretion to determine the scope of impact evaluations for salvage timber sales under §2001(c) of the Rescissions Act of 1995 (Act) and that the Secretary of the USDA's decision to allow salvage timber sales in Mark Twain National Forest was neither arbitrary nor capricious. Although environmental groups contend that the first sentence of §2001(c) of the Act requires the concerned Secretary to prepare a document that combines a National Environmental Policy Act environmental assessment and an Endangered Species Act biological evaluation, the court agrees with the government that the second sentence of §2001(c) gives the concerned Secretary discretion to determine the scope of the impact evaluations. The Act calls for one document that provides an environmental analysis at the "sole discretion of the Secretary concerned" to delve into the environmental analysis in any manner the Secretary deems appropriate and feasible. Thus, the court holds that the Secretary's decision to apply a categorical exclusion to this review was appropriate. The court also holds that the full record indicates that the Secretary's decision to allow salvage timber sales in the Reed Hollow area of the Mark Twain National Forest was neither arbitrary nor capricious, because the administrative record is replete with reports on all aspects of the environmental impact of the proposed timber sale and the selection of the site.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Russell C. Ashley
Deacy & Deacy
1000 Bryant Bldg.
1102 Grand Ave., Kansas City MO 64106
(816) 421-4000

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