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Mausolf v. Babbitt

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20057
Nos. No. 96-1856, 125 F.3d 661/(8th Cir., 09/23/1997) Grant of summary judgment reversed

The court holds that the National Park Service's (NPS') order restricting snowmobile access in Voyageurs National Park in order to further wildlife management objectives is not arbitrary and capricious. The court first holds that it has jurisdiction even after NPS dismissed its appeal, because intervenor conservation groups have standing and were permitted to file a protective notice of appeal that would be effective if the district court's denial of intervention was reversed. Further, a case or controversy still exists after NPS dismissed its appeal, because the district court's decision overruling NPS' decision directly impacts the conservation groups' interests. The court next holds that if NPS conducts an annual management goals review of the trail closures, and annual order closing the snowmobile trails is not outside NPS' authority due to the lack of a specific time limit in the order. The court also holds that although there was an absence of definitive, irrefutable evidence in the administrative record to establish the adverse connection between snowmobiling and the incidental taking of gray wolves, the evidence in the record was sufficient to justify the determination. Specifically, the court noted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service observations that snowmobiling can lead to the temporary disruption of gray wolf feeding activity and to the harassment of gray wolves by providing humans access to gray wolf habitat that would otherwise not occur. Moreover, a reviewing court must uphold a decision of less than ideal clarity if the agency's path may reasonably be discerned.

[Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 26 ELR 20915 and 21317.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Corey J. Ayling
McGrann, Shea, Franzen, Carnival, Straughn & Lamb
2200 La Salle Plaza
800 La Salle Ave., Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 338-2525

Counsel for Defendants
Richard A. Duncan
Faegre & Benson
2200 Norwest Ctr.
90 S. 7th St., Minneapolis MN 55402
(612) 336-3000

Before Heaney and Strom,1 JJ.