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Idaho Conservation League v. Lannom

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20134
Nos. 1:15-cv-246, (D. Idaho, 08/02/2016) (Winmill, J.)

A district court held that the U.S. Forest Service violated NEPA, the Wilderness Act, and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) in connection with its decision to allow drilling, road reconstruction, and the use of motorized vehicles and heavy equipment at the Golden Hand Mine in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. A mining company submitted an assessment plan to the Service in order to demonstrate that it has valid mining claims at the site. The Forest Service approved the plan, and environmental groups filed suit, claiming that the Forest Service favored mineral extraction over wilderness protection. The court ruled in the group's favor. The Forest Service's EIS and record of decision (ROD) violated NEPA because they failed to explain why the Forest Service concluded 11 drill sites and three trenches were the minimum activity necessary for the mining company to prepare for its validity hearing. They also failed to consider alternatives that would have reduced the drilling, trenching, and road reconstruction but still allow the company to do its necessary assessment work. The documents also failed to explain whether the Service relied on the information provided by the company at a confidential meeting and, if so, failed to describe the nature of that evidence. The EIS and ROD also violate the Wilderness Act and NFMA because the Forest Service did not take into account the potential reduction of 400 motorized trips by having workers walk to work, rendering arbitrary the finding that 571 trips was an essential amount necessary for the company's assessment work. The court therefore invalidated the approval and remanded the assessment plan to the Forest Service to correct these errors.