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Lands Council v. McNair

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20163
Nos. No. 07-35000, (9th Cir., 07/02/2008) Injunction denied

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court's refusal to preliminarily enjoin a timber project calling for the selective logging of 3,829 acres of forest in the Idaho Panhandle National Forest. Based on the court's holding in Ecology Center, Inc. v. Austin, 430 F.3d 1057, 35 ELR 20248 (9th Cir. 2005), environmental groups argued that the U.S. Forest Service violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) because it did not demonstrate the reliability of the scientific methodology underlying its analysis of the project's effect on the flammulated owl and its habitat. The court, however, refused to impose bright-line rules on the Forest Service regarding particular means that it must take in every case to show that it has met the NFMA's requirements. Rather, the Forest Service must support its conclusions that a project meets the requirements of the NFMA and relevant forest plan with studies that the agency, in its expertise, deems reliable. The Forest Service acts arbitrarily and capriciously only when the record plainly demonstrates that the Forest Service made a clear error in judgment in concluding that a project meets the requirements of the NFMA and relevant Forest Plan. In so holding, the court overruled Ecology Center. Here, the Forest Service engaged in no such error. Nor did Forest Service violate the forest plan's requirement that at least 10% old-growth be maintained throughout the forest. In addition, the Forest Service took the requisite "hard look" at the environmental impacts of the project to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act, and the groups failed to show that the balance of hardships would tip sharply in their favor if the project was allowed to proceed.

[A prior decision in this litigation can be found at 37 ELR 20160.]