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Friends of Tahoe Forest Access v. United States Department of Agriculture

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20043
Nos. 14-15336, (9th Cir., 02/26/2016)

The Ninth Circuit, in an unpublished opinion, upheld the U.S. Forest Service's decision to allow motorized vehicles on just 62 of 869 miles of user-created roads and trails in the Tahoe National Forest. To implement the 2005 Travel Management Rule in the Tahoe National Forest, the Forest Service prepared an EIS for the Tahoe Motorized Travel Management Project. In 2010, it issued its final decision, designating approximately 62 miles of user-created roads and trails in the forest into its official transportation system, and closing the remainder of user-created roads and trails to future motor vehicle use. Motor sports enthusiasts challenged the adequacy of the EIS, but a lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service, and the appellate court affirmed. The Forest Service considered a reasonable range of alternatives to implement the 2005 Travel Management Rule in the Tahoe National Forest and fully considered the environmental impacts of those alternatives; this is all that NEPA requires. Nor did the Forest Service act arbitrarily in limiting its analysis of the cumulative impacts of the Motorized Travel Management Project to the boundary of the Tahoe National Forest. The Tahoe National Forest was the designated project area, and an agency’s decision to use a project’s boundaries as the geographic scope of its cumulative effects analysis is reasonable, even where a project may have cumulative impacts in a broader geographic area.