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Friends of the Clearwater v. Dombeck

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20031
Nos. No. 99-35642, 222 F.3d 552/(9th Cir., 08/16/2000)

The court holds that although the U.S. Forest Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it failed to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) necessary for certain timber sales in the Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho, the Forest Service's subsequent preparation of a supplemental information report and other documents eliminates the need to enjoin the timber sales. The court first holds that the Forest Service violated NEPA by failing to timely prepare, or even to consider and evaluate the need for, an SEIS in light of seven new sensitive species designations in the forest and in light of its recognition that the old growth and snag standards on which the original 1987 environmental impact statement (EIS) relied were inadequate. When new information comes to light, the agency must consider it, evaluate it, and make a reasoned determination whether it is of such significance as to require an SEIS. Yet, there is no evidence in the record that before this litigation the Forest Service ever considered the seven new sensitive species designations or the inadequacy of the snag and old growth standards.

Nevertheless, the court next holds that the environmental groups challenging the timber sales are not entitled to injunctive relief. After commencement of litigation, the Forest Service conducted and completed a supplemental information report and several other studies that specifically addressed the significance of the listing of the seven species and the inadequacy of the snag and old growth standards. This supplemental material must be considered in determining whether the timber sales should be enjoined. Further, they support the Forest Service's assertion that an SEIS is not necessary because the timber sales will not significantly affect the sensitive species and that after the sales, the old growth and snag standards will be satisfied. Consequently, there is no need for an injunction.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Mark D. Fink
Western Environmental Law Center
1216 Lincoln St., Eugene OR 97401
(541) 485-2471

Counsel for Defendants
Nicholas J. Woychick, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
First Interstate Center
877 Main St., Ste. 201, Boise ID 83702
(208) 334-1211

Before Hug and Brunetti, JJ.