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Friends of the Clearwater v. Higgins

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20031
Nos. 20-35623, (9th Cir., 02/22/2021)

In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court's denial of a motion to preliminarily enjoin a timber harvest and road construction project in the Idaho Panhandle National Forests. Environmental groups first argued the district court erred in finding that they failed to present sufficient evidence of irreparable harm to grizzly bears. The appellate court found no evidence to undermine the district court's finding that the groups failed to show a definitive threat to grizzly bears, because no bears had been identified in the project area and the area was not in critical bear habitat. The groups next argued the district court failed to adequately analyze the cumulative effects of the project on elk and the efficacy of the chosen mitigation measures for the species. The appellate court agreed with the district court that the Forest Service's proposal to increase cumulative elk security beyond baseline levels was reasonable. Last, the groups argued the misstatement in the EA that the project area did not include the St. Joe Wild and Scenic River corridor constituted a failure to provide the public an opportunity to comment on the agency's analyses in violation of NEPA. The appellate court agreed with the district court's conclusion that the EA's single sentence incorrectly stating the project scope did not so drastically undermine public participation as to render the Service's action unlawful. It therefore affirmed the district court's denial of the preliminary injunction.