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Sauk Prairie Conservation Alliance v. United States Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20006
Nos. 18-2213, (7th Cir., 12/12/2019)

The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for NPS in a lawsuit concerning acceptable activities on land acquired by Wisconsin through the Federal Land to Parks Program for recreational use. An environmental group argued that NPS' approval of three activities at the park—dog training, off-road motorcycle riding, and military helicopter drills—violated the Property and Administrative Services Act because they were inconsistent with the park's original purposes. The appellate court found that while dog training and off-road motorcycle riding were not explicitly mentioned in the state's initial application to acquire the land, they were recreational uses and thus consistent with the original purposes. Moreover, even though military helicopter drills were not a recreational use, NPS included a provision in its final deed that specifically reserved the right to continue the drills. The groups also argued that NPS violated NEPA by failing to prepare an EIS prior to approving the three activities. But the court found that NPS reasonably concluded that its approval of dog training and off-road motorcycle riding fell within a categorical exclusion, and that the Service was not required to prepare an EIS for helicopter training because it did not have the authority to discontinue the drills. The court therefore affirmed summary judgment for NPS.