Navajo Tribe of Indians v. Andrus

11 ELR 20668 | Environmental Law Reporter | copyright © 1981 | All rights reserved

Navajo Tribe of Indians v. Andrus

No. 78-1704 (9th Cir. May 4, 1981)

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that a suit to enjoin the Secretary of the Interior from implementing a livestock reduction program on reservation lands until an environmental impact statement was filed is moot where Congress subsequently declared that actions taken pursuant to the program are not major federal actions under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The district court held that NEPA did not apply since it irreconcilably conflicted with the stock reduction program. Relying upon the recent congressional directive, the Circuit court declines to rule on the correctness of the lower court's ruling and dismisses the appeal.

Counsel for Appellants
Lawrence A. Ruzow, Belinda K. Barrington
Blassis, Ruzow & Linzer
545 W. Thomas Rd., Phoenix AR 85015
(602) 248-8811

Counsel for Appellees
Thomas H. Pacheco
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washingtn DC 20530
(202) 633-2767

Counsel for Intervenor-Appellee The Hope Tribe
George J. Romney
Boyden, Kennedy & Romney
1000 Kennecott Bldg., 10 E. South Temple St., Salt Lake City UT 84133
(801) 521-0800

Before TRASK and FLETCHER, Circuit Judges, and BLUMENFELD,* District Judge.

[11 ELR 20669]

TRASK, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Navajo Tribe seeks an injunction to restrain the Secretary from carrying out a judicially and congressionally mandated reduction of stock grazing on reservation lands held jointly by the Navajo and Hopi Tribes until he files an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required by the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). The district court found that because NEPA was in irreconcilable conflict with the statutory directive to implement the stock reduction program immediately, NEPA did not apply. The court then granted the Hopi Tribe's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim.

On this appeal Apellant argues that the stock reduction mandate could be harmonized with NEPA. However, after submission of this case on July 8, 1980, the stock reduction mandate was amended by Public Law 96-305, 94 Stat. 929, which reads in pertinent part: "Sec. 28(a) No action taken pursuant to, in furtherance of, or as authorized by this Act, as amended, shall be deemed a major Federal action for purposes of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969, as amended." Whether the district court's interpretation of the statute as it read when Appellant brought its action was correct or not, this clear directive from Congress frecloses the possibility that it can obtain any relief. Hence, we dismiss this appeal as moot.

* Honorable M. Joseph Blumenfeld, Senior United States District Judge for the District of Connecticut, sitting by designation.

11 ELR 20668 | Environmental Law Reporter | copyright © 1981 | All rights reserved