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Forest Guardians v. Dombeck

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 20499
Nos. 97-16206, -16446, 131 F.3d 1309/(9th Cir., 12/15/1997)

The court holds that the U.S. Forest Service's decision to implement land and resource management plan (LRMP) amendments prospectively, but not retroactively, does not violate the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The court first holds that the grant of authority to amend the LRMPs includes the ability to implement the amendments prospectively only. The plain language of the NFMA permits the Forest Service to amend existing LRMPs "in any manner whatsoever." The court then notes that absent explicit legislative intent to the contrary, congressional enactments and administrative rules will not be construed to have retroactive effect unless their language requires such a result. NFMA §6(i) does not explicitly mandate the retroactive application of all amendments. In fact, it expressly precludes the retroactive application of amendments where such retroactive application would impair existing rights. And in this case, the retroactive application of the 1996 LRMP amendments to the Southwestern Region of the National Forest System would impair the valid existing rights of parties who held authorizations, permits, or contracts for the use of forest resources before the amendments' adoption.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Mark Hughes
University of Denver School of Law
Foote Hall
7150 Montview Blvd., Denver CO 80220
(303) 871-6996

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

Before Choy, Goodwin, and Nelson, JJ.