Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Brazell

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20002
Nos. 14-35050, (9th Cir., 01/02/2015)

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court decision affirming the U.S. Forest Service's decision to implement the Little Slate Project, a 2,598-acre timber thinning sale within the Nez Perce National Forest. Environmental groups asserted that the Forest Service and FWS violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), NEPA, and the ESA by failing to properly account for the project's impact on several species that live in the project area and those species’ habitats. But the court disagreed, ruling that the federal agencies satisfied their obligations under NFMA, NEPA, and the ESA before implementing the project to improve long-term habitat and the health of the forest. Although the Nez Perce Forest Plan requires the Forest Service to monitor management indicator species populations at the forest level, nothing in the plan requires the Service to conduct site-specific monitoring before implementing individual projects like the Little Slate Project. The Service also took the requisite “hard look” at the project’s potential impacts on the species under NEPA. And FWS' "no jeopardy" conclusion for the bull trout is supported by evidence in the record, which shows that the project, while temporarily disrupting some bull trout habitat in the short term, will have a long-term positive impact on many of the streams in which bull trout live and reproduce. FWS' biological opinion is therefore sufficient under the ESA, and neither FWS nor the Forest Service violated the ESA or the APA by developing or relying on it.