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Little Traverse Lake Property Owners Ass'n v. National Park Service

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20030
Nos. 17-1064, (6th Cir., 02/23/2018)

The Sixth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision dismissing residents' NEPA lawsuit against the National Park Service (NPS) concerning its approval of a scenic trailway through the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. One of the alternative routes for the trailway, which NPS proposed in 2008, ran along Traverse Lake Road. Residents along that road submitted objections to the proposed plan during the public comment period. NPS attempted to address the objections to the 2008 proposal, and in 2009, it issued a revised proposal that made significant changes to the portion of the trail along Traverse Lake Road. No one submitted objections to the revised plan, and NPS then approved that route after it made a finding of no significant impact. Nearly 6 years later, a property owners association and individual residents filed suit, contending that the 2009 plan violated NEPA and its implementing regulations. In support of their claims, the association and residents sought to supplement the administrative record with additional pictures, maps, and other documents. But the lower court correctly dismissed most of their claims as forfeited because they failed to participate in NPS' planning process in a manner that would have alerted NPS to their objections to the 2009 plan. The plaintiffs, therefore, did not allow NPS the opportunity to give the issues meaningful consideration before issuing its final decision. And although plaintiffs had preserved their claim that NPS failed to consider reasonable alternatives, NPS was not required to consider the alternative route the plaintiffs proposed during the 2008 public comment period because it did not fulfill the trail plan’s reasonable statement of purpose and need. Last, there are no exceptional circumstances requiring supplementation of the administrative record.