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Earth Island Institute v. United States Forest Service

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20194
Nos. 11-16718, (9th Cir., 09/20/2012)

The Ninth Circuit held that the U.S. Forest Service's Angora Fire Restoration Project in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) complies with the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) and NEPA. Environmental groups argued that the NMFA required the Forest Service to demonstrate at the project level that the restoration project would maintain viable population levels of management indicator species, including the black-backed woodpecker. But the NFMA only requires the project to comply with viability requirements to the extent they have been incorporated in the relevant forest plan. Reviewing the LTBMU forest plan’s requirements with deference to the agency, and given the absence of case law in support of the groups' arguments, the court concluded that the Forest Service complied with this mandate and did not err in concluding that the forest plan did not require it to assess the quantity and quality of habitat necessary to support the black-backed woodpecker at the project level. In addition, the Forest Service ensured the scientific integrity of the final EA, properly responded to dissenting scientific opinion, properly considered proposed alternatives to the EA, and took the requisite “hard look” at the impacts of the project. Accordingly, the Forest Service's analysis of the project was not arbitrary and capricious under NEPA.