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Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Christiensen

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20173
Nos. 14-35069, (9th Cir., 11/01/2016)

The Ninth Circuit upheld a lower court decision enjoining two wildfire reduction projects in the Gallatin National Forest—the Bozeman Municipal Watershed Project and the East Boulder Project—because FWS and the U.S. Forest Service failed to adequately assess impacts on lynx critical habitat in violation of the ESA. Citing Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. Forest Service, 789 F.3d 1075, 45 ELR 20114 (9th Cir. 2015), the court held that because the habitat assessments for the projects relied on a pre-designation version of critical lynx habitat, the agencies should have reinitiated ESA §7(a)(2) consultation. And although the lower court erred in applying a burden-shifting approach and presuming irreparable injury, the error was harmless. In addition, the court agreed with the lower court that the agencies complied with NEPA and the ESA with regard to the projects’ impacts on grizzly bears.