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Idaho Sporting Congress v. U.S. Forest Serv.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21630
Nos. 96-35150, 92 F.3d 922/(9th cir., 08/12/1996)

The court holds that the salvage logging rider to the 1995 Rescissions Act precludes judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) of seven salvage timber sales in Idaho and Montana. Because §2001(f) of the Rescissions Act provides a specific mechanism for judicial review and offers a remedy for every salvage timber sale, the APA does not apply to timber sales covered by the Act. The court rejects the argument that because §2001(f)(3) specifically states that APA, 5 U.S.C. §705 does not apply to challenges to salvage timber sales, agency timber sale decisions are generally reviewable under other provisions of the APA. By expressly precluding §705's applicability to salvage timber sales, Congress intended to forestall any attempt to use the APA to obtain restraining orders, preliminary injunctions, and relief pending review—remedies that are not available under the Rescissions Act. The court next holds that five of the seven sales are not ripe for review. The Act specifies that challenges must be brought within 15 days of advertisement; however, four of the sales had not been advertised before plaintiff environmental group filed its complaint, and the fifth sale had been withdrawn. The court rejects the group's argument that because the Act is ambiguous about whether salvage timber sales must satisfy substantive federal laws, the sales should be set aside. Under the Act, salvage timber sales are clearly not subject to any federal environmental or natural resource laws. The court next holds that it has no authority to review the sales' compliance with a presidential directive and an interagency memorandum of agreement (MOA) regarding the Rescissions Act. The court cannot review salvage timber sale decisions for compliance with any federal environmental or natural resource law, and the group has not established that the directive or the MOA would provide an independent source of nonenvironmental law under which the court would be permitted to review the sales. Finally, the court holds that the administrative record sufficiently supports the decisions of the U.S. Forest Service with respect to the two remaining sales. While the administrative record reflects disagreement in the opinions and recommendations of various federal agencies that the Forest Service consulted before reaching its salvage timber decisions, the agency was entitled to rely on the opinions and recommendations of its own experts.

Counsel for Plaintiff
D. Bernard Zaleha
408 Simplot Bldg.
805 W. Idaho St., Boise ID 83701
(208) 342-0077

Counsel for Defendant
Monica P. Medina
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Before: LAY,* FERGUSON, and LEAVY, Circuit Judges.