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Jarita Mesa Livestock Grazing Association v. U.S. Forest Service

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20131
Nos. CIV 12-0069 JB/KBM, (D.N.M., 10/13/2017) (Browning)

A district court held that the Forest Service did not violate NEPA when it reduced grazing permits on federal land in New Mexico. The Jarita Mesa Allotment and the Alamosa Allotment are both within the El Rito Ranger District of Carson National Forest. The Forest Service issues ten-year permits that allow their holders to graze a specific number of animals on either Allotment. As part of determining the number of permits to issue in 2011 and subsequent years, the Forest Service prepared an EA during 2009 and 2010. After considering the options, the Service decided to reduce grazing by 18%. Plaintiffs filed an administrative appeal of the decision for violations of NEPA, specifically not considering the social and economic impacts of the proposed action. The ALJ sided with the Service. The district court agreed, finding that NEPA requires agencies to consider the environmental impacts of agency action, which may, depending on a particular case’s circumstances, extend to secondary social and economic effects that flow from an action’s impact on the physical environment. However, NEPA does not require agencies to consider social and economic impacts that flow directly from an action and not from the action’s effect on the physical environment.