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Center for Biological Diversity v. United States Forest Service

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20012
Nos. 13-16684, (9th Cir., 01/12/2016)

The Ninth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, held that environmental groups have standing to bring a RCRA citizen suit against the U.S. Forest Service for failing to regulate the disposal of spent lead ammunition in the Kaibab National Forest. The groups allege that the Forest Service's failure to regulate allows for the poisoning of California condors and other wildlife, thereby rendering it liable as a "contributor" to an "imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment." A lower court dismissed the case on standing grounds, but the appellate court reversed and remanded. The groups established injury in fact through its members' declarations of intent to continue visiting the Forest. They also established injury in fact in their allegations that the Forest Service's tacit permission for hunters to use lead ammunition endangers wildlife. The complaint also draws a causal connection between the Forest Service's refusal to exercise its authority to regulate the use of lead, the continuing use of lead ammunition by hunters, and the poisoning of condors and other wildlife that scavenge lead-contaminated remains. The fact that hunters, not the Forest Service itself, actually dispose of the lead does not make the causal connection too attenuated because the Forest Service has the authority to control certain conduct of the third-party hunters. Last, the groups alleged that spent lead ammunition is the leading cause of condors' lead exposure; thus, condors would likely benefit from agency action to curb the use of lead ammunition. As such, a ruling in the groups' favor is likely to redress at least partially the alleged injuries.