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Central Sierra Environmental Resource Center v. Stanislaus National Forest

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20134
Nos. 1:17-cv-00441-LJO-SAB, (E.D. Cal., 08/06/2019) (O'Neill, J.)

A district court denied a motion for summary judgment in a challenge to the U.S. Forest Service's cattle grazing program for three livestock allotments in Stanislaus National Forest. Environmental groups argued the program caused violations of water quality standards for fecal coliform bacteria and thus was arbitrary and capricious. The court found that, given the working regulatory relationship between the Service and regional and state water boards, and the Service's efforts to reduce potential violations—incorporating water quality provisions into the grazing permits and purchasing troughs to reduce livestock presence in streams—the program was not arbitrary or capricious. The groups next argued the Service failed to file waste discharge reports with the regional water board and initiated new discharges before obtaining a permit or waiver, in violation of 1999 amendments to the Porter-Cologne Act. The court found the Service was not required to obtain a permit or file notices of discharge because its 1981 agreement with the state water board specifically exempted the Service from having to do so. Lastly, the groups argued the Service failed to comply with certain forestwide standards and guidelines under the national forest's management plan, in violation of the National Forest Management Act. The court found the Service's approach to complying with the plan, which was based on the view that the standards and guidelines were short-term indicators designed to generally advance broader goals of the plan, was a reasonable interpretation, and thus that the Service was entitled to deference. It therefore denied the groups' motion.