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League of Wilderness Defenders/Blue Mountains Biodiversity Project v. Connaughton

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20108
Nos. 13-35653, (9th Cir., 05/08/2014)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part a lower court decision denying environmental groups’ motion to preliminarily enjoin a logging project in the Whitman-Wallowa National Forest in northeast Oregon. The lower court held that the groups were not likely to succeed on any of their claims, and that the balance of harms did not tip sharply in their favor. But the groups are likely to prevail on their NEPA claim regarding the EIS’ discussion of elk habitat. The discussion was insufficiently clear, and, therefore, the analysis of the project’s effects on elk failed to satisfy NEPA requirements. In addition, absent a preliminary injunction, the groups are likely to face irreparable harm. Likewise, the groups have shown that the balance of equities tipped in their favor and that the public interest supports the granting of a preliminary injunction. The court, therefore, reversed the lower court on this claim. But the court agreed with the lower court’s determination that the groups were not likely to succeed on their remaining NEPA and ESA claims. On remand, the lower court must enter a preliminary injunction sufficient to protect the status quo while the U.S. Forest Service completes a supplemental EIS on the project’s impact on elk and their habitat.