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California Resources Agency v. Department of Agric.

ELR Citation: 39 ELR 20230
Nos. No. 08-1185, (N.D. Cal., 09/29/2009)

A district court held that the U.S. Forest Service's EIS addressing the land management plans for four national forests in southern California was issued in violation of NEPA and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The court rejected many of the plaintiffs' challenges. Nevertheless, the Forest Service's failure to provide in the EIS any discussion of input from the state of California, or at least of the state's failure to fully engage in the planning process, was a violation of the NFMA. This is more than a merely technical violation, as it significantly inhibits the public's ability to understand the competing priorities of the Forest Service and the state. In addition, the Forest Service failed to specifically analyze the cumulative impacts of extensively increasing the inventoried roadless areas zoned to allow for potential road construction while recommending relatively few inventoried roadless areas for wilderness protection in violation of NEPA. And despite the criticality of monitoring and evaluation requirements, the Forest Service applied the same monitoring and evaluation requirements across the range of proposed alternatives. The failure to analyze alternative regimes of monitoring and evaluation renders the public and decisionmakers unable to make a reasoned choice. This is an abuse of discretion and a violation of NEPA.