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WildEarth Guardians v. Steele

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20123
Nos. CV 19-56-M-DWM and CV 19-60-M-DWM, (D. Mont., 06/24/2021) (Molloy, J.)

A district court granted in part and denied in part environmental groups' motion for summary judgment in a challenge to the Forest Service's and FWS' decisions concerning a revised forest plan for the Flathead National Forest. The groups argued the Services' decisions violated the ESA and NEPA. The court found the Forest Service took a sufficiently "hard look" at the impact of the revised plan as required by NEPA, but that FWS violated the ESA by failing to consider impacts of the plan's departure from road density and reclamation standards, failing to consider its impact on the entire grizzly bear population, failing to adequately explain the adoption of 2011 access conditions, and adopting a flawed surrogate in its take statement concerning grizzly bears. The court further found the plan violated the ESA as it related to bull trout by departing from culvert removal requirements, and that the Forest Service improperly relied on flawed aspects of FWS' 2017 biological opinion. It granted in part and denied in part summary judgment for the groups, and remanded without vacatur the 2017 biological opinion for further consideration.