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Swan View Coalition v. Barbouletos

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20142
Nos. No. CV 06-73-M-DWM, (D. Mont., 05/28/2008)

A district court set aside a biological opinion (BO) issued in conjunction with the Winter Motorized Recreation Plan for the Flathead National Forest. In establishing the environmental baseline from which it assessed the effects of the recreation plan on the grizzly bear, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) considered the current state of actual springtime snowmobile use on the forest, rather than the existing (although largely unenforced) rules prohibiting snowmobile use in the spring. In other words, the baseline for measurement and analysis accepts illegal use and then proceeds based on that faulty idea. This manipulation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) process renders the FWS' analysis and "no jeopardy" conclusion unreliable. The recreation plan, including the opening of any portion of the Flathead National Forest to spring snowmobiling, may not be implemented until the FWS has completed a BO that complies with the ESA.