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Helena Hunters and Anglers Ass'n v. Marten

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20163
Nos. CV 19-47-M-DLC, (D. Mont., 07/01/2020) (Christensen, J.)

A district court granted in part summary judgment for nonprofit groups in a suit concerning a logging project in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. One group argued the project violated the Roadless Rule because the Forest Service was surreptitiously planning to construct new roads in an inventoried roadless area (IRA), violated NEPA by failing to prepare a supplemental EIS when its chosen alternative was more than a minor deviation from the alternatives discussed in the draft EIS and because the final EIS was misleading and inaccurate, and violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA) by relying on an elk security amendment that had previously been withdrawn. The court found the Service's reliance on the withdrawn amendment did not violate NFMA, but that the agency did violate the Roadless Rule because its conclusion that the IRA contained a network of preexisting roads that could be used for transporting heavy machinery with only minor debris removal was arbitrary and capricious, and NEPA because it failed to issue a supplemental EIS that discussed the chosen alternative's roadwork and failed to adequately disclose and analyze the impacts to IRAs in its final EIS. Another group argued the Service violated NEPA by failing to prepare a single EIS alongside another project when both projects amounted to a single course of action with significant cumulative effects, violated the ESA by failing to adequately discuss the impact on grizzly bears from the project's addition of recreational trails, and violated NFMA by failing to comply with the forest plan's standard for managing occupied grizzly bear habitat. The court found the Service violated neither NEPA nor NFMA, but did violate the ESA by failing to address the effects of recreational trails. The court therefore granted in part and denied in part the groups' motions for summary judgment.