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Greenpeace, Inc. v. Cole

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20262
Nos. No. 10-35567, (9th Cir., 08/02/2011)

The Ninth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, reversed a lower court decision granting summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Forest Service in a case challenging its approval of four timber logging projects in the Tongass National Forest. The Forest Service failed to adequately explain it decision to approve the projects under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). The Tongass land management plan requires the Forest Service to maintain viable populations of the Sitka black-tailed deer, a management indicator species. The Forest Service used a deer model to estimate how many deer could live on the land affected by the projects after the projects' conclusion. Under this model, the Service would multiply the "habitat suitability index" and the "deer multiplier" to reach the theoretical maximum number of deer that an area can support over the long term. But the Service used different habitat suitability index ranges and different deer multiplier figures at various times. Given these variations, the maximum carrying capacity could have ranged from a low of 75 to a high of 162. Moreover, it failed to articulate a rational connection between the facts found and the choices made. Because the calculation or miscalculation of the logging areas' deer-carrying capacity affects all four projects, the court reversed and remanded the NFMA claims. In light of the remand, the court determined that it was premature to decide whether the Service met its NEPA obligations. It therefore vacated the lower court's judgment on the NEPA claims.