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Soda Mountain Wilderness Council v. Bureau of Land Management

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20176
Nos. 12-35844, (9th Cir., 07/30/2013)

The Ninth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, affirmed in part and reversed in part a lower court decision denying an environmental group's motion to preliminarily enjoin a BLM-approved timber sale. The district court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that the group failed to raise serious questions on its claim that the timber sale would contribute to the need to list the Pacific fisher as a threatened or endangered species under the ESA. Nor did the district court err by ruling that the group failed to raise serious questions as to the merits of its argument that BLM failed to take the required "hard look" at logging trees infected with mistletoe under NEPA. However, the group's argument that BLM arbitrarily and capriciously removed from further consideration the proposed "no-new-roads alternative" does have merit. BLM never explained why eliminating two of the three new-road-requiring units from the project would have been inconsistent with the project objectives, but eliminating several other units from the proposal was not. The district court, therefore, erred by failing to find a likelihood of success on the merits of this part of the group's NEPA claim. Because the group demonstrated an irreparable injury, and because public interest weighs in favor of granting an injunction, the district court should have issued a limited preliminary injunction enjoining the building of 1.15 miles of new roads until BLM either considers the group's no-new-roads alternative or specifies why that alternative was rejected consistent with the project objectives.