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Committee to Save the Rio Hondo v. Lucero

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20576
Nos. 95-2274, 102 F.3d 445/(10th Cir., 12/06/1996)

The court holds that an environmental group has standing to challenge the U.S. Forest Service's failure to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) or supplemental EIS under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) before allowing summer use of a ski area in the Carson National Forest. The court first holds that the group's alleged injuries fall within the "zone of interests" that NEPA was designed to protect because the group seeks to protect its recreational, aesthetic, and consumptive interests in the land and water surrounding the ski area. The court then holds that the group has established standing to sue under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Affidavits by two of the group's members who live 12-15 miles downstream from the ski area establish that they suffer an increased, threatened risk of environmental harm due to the Forest Service's alleged uninformed decisionmaking. In addition, the Forest Service's alleged procedural failures impair the members' separate, concrete interests because they each have a geographical nexus to, and actually use the land and water in the affected area. Thus, the group has established an injury-in-fact by sufficiently demonstrating an increased risk of environmental harm to their members' concrete interests that NEPA's procedures are meant to protect. Further, the group has established causation by tracing the risk of harm to the Forest Service's alleged failure to follow NEPA's procedures. Also, the group's injury would be redressed by a favorable decision requiring the Forest Service to comply with NEPA's procedures. That the Forest Service may not change its decision to allow summertime operations at the ski area after preparing an EIS is immaterial.