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Te-Moak Tribe of Western Shoshone Indians of Nevada v. U.S. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20076
Nos. 12-15412, (9th Cir., 03/27/2014)

The Ninth Circuit held that BLM did not violate NEPA or FLPMA when it approved the expansion of a gold mine near Nevada's Mount Tenabo. Native American tribes claimed that BLM failed to address mitigation measures specific to groundwater in situ, failed to propose new mitigation measures relating to surface water resources, and failed to consider the religious use and significance of water in the Mount Tenabo region. But because they did not raise the issue of mitigation measures specific to groundwater in situ during the initial or supplemental EIS public comment periods, they waived this challenge. As for mitigation measures relating to surface water resources, BLM proposed a detailed water resources mitigation plan and analyzed the effectiveness of that plan in accordance with a prior court opinion. And BLM did in fact consider the religious significance of water in the Mount Tenabo region, but the Tribes did not identify religious uses of any particular springs or seeps within the Project area. Accordingly, BLM’s analysis of the project's impacts on water resources was not arbitrary or capricious. In addition, the court rejected claims that the expansion project will interfere with religious uses in violation of Executive Order No. 13007. BLM studied the project’s effects for over two years, consulting with 14 tribes and tribal organizations and reviewing several surveys of religious practices in the Mount Tenabo region, and it reasonably determined that further accommodation was not practicable. The court, therefore, affirmed a lower court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the government.