Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Mountain States Legal Found. v. Glickman

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21596
Nos. 95-5185, 92 F.3d 1228/43 ERC 1646/(D.C. Cir., 08/23/1996) aff'd

The court holds that timber and outdoor recreation interests have standing to challenge the U.S. Forest Service's choice of a plan to harvest timber in the Upper Yaak River drainage region of the Kootenai National Forest in Montana. Plaintiffs, who seek the implementation of an alternate plan with higher timber harvest levels, argue that the plan selected by the Forest Service makes an arbitrary trade off between the welfare of the grizzly bear and those employed by the timber industry. They also argue that the timber left in place under the Forest Service's plan poses an unnecessarily high risk of catastrophic wildfire that endangers the grizzly bear, the forest, and people living nearby. The court first holds that plaintiffs have set forth facts showing the constitutional minimum elements of standing in enough detail to withstand a motion for summary judgment. Given plaintiff lumber company's historic dependence on the Upper Yaak for its supply, together with the disruptive effect of a past lumber mill shutdown, logging cutbacks in the Upper Yaak clearly inflict injury on the firm's economic well-being, which an order reducing the cutbacks would redress. Further, the aesthetic and environmental interests of the members of plaintiffs nonprofit corporations having areas that they hike and camp in free of devastating forest fire are also clearly sufficient for Article III standing. The court then holds that plaintiffs whose members use the Upper Yaak for such purposes as hiking are clearly within the zone of interests protected by the National Environmental Policy Act, and the enhanced wildfire risk is a constitutionally adequate injury to that interest. The court holds that plaintiffs' injuries are also within the zone of interests of the National Forest Management Act, the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act, and the Organic Act, because these forest management statutes make clear congressional intent that the national forests should play a significant role in supplying timber, and indicate a purpose to advance outdoor recreation. The court next holds that plaintiffs' claim that the Forest Service's decision implicitly designated the Upper Yaak as a critical habitat for the grizzly bear without the economic impact analysis required by §4(b)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not an obstacle to prudential standing. While Congress clearly did not adopt the ESA for the purpose of protecting economic interests, it clearly intended that such interests should come into play when critical habitats are designated. Turning to the merits of plaintiffs' claims, the court holds that it is in no position to say that the Forest Service acted arbitrarily or capriciously. Although timber harvesting is clearly a major goal of the forest management statutes, it does not mean that logging must be maximized at the expense of all other values. The court next holds that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biological opinion that the Forest Service's plan would not likely jeopardize the grizzly bear did not depend on the timber harvesting area being designated as the bear's critical habitat, thus, the consideration of countervailing economic concerns under the ESA was not required. Last, the court holds that the Forest Service was not required to prepare environmental impact statements for a grizzly bear recovery plan and a memorandum of understanding with Montana on water quality.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 26 ELR 20685.]

Counsel for Appellants
Todd S. Welch
Mountain States Legal Foundation
1660 Lincoln St., Ste. 2300, Denver CO 80264
(303) 861-0244

Counsel for Appellees
Edward J. Shawaker
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: BUCKLEY, WILLIAMS, and HENDERSON, Circuit Judges.