Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Oregon Natural Desert Association v. BLM

Jul 14: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 05-35931. The Appeals Court indicates that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is charged with managing “the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people.” That task, which the Supreme Court has characterized as “enormously complicated,” Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), 542 U.S. 55, 58 (2004), requires careful planning. The issue in the case is whether the BLM complied with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA), when it developed a land use plan covering a large portion of Oregon.

The Oregon Natural Desert Association, Committee for the High Desert, and Western Watersheds Project (ONDA) contend that the BLM has not done so because it has failed (1) properly to analyze the effects of the plan on lands under its control possessing “wilderness characteristics”; and (2) properly to analyze management options for grazing and off-road vehicle use throughout the region covered by the plan. The district court granted summary judgment for the BLM, and the Appeals Court reversed and remanded to the district court with instructions to remand to the Bureau.

The Appeals Court concluded, "The EIS violated NEPA in the ways we have stated. We hold unlawful and set aside the ROD approving the EIS and the Southeast Oregon Plan. See 5 U.S.C. § 706(2). The BLM may not implement the Plan without remedying the gaps in the EIS. Having addressed the problems we have identified, the BLM may decide to make different choices. NEPA is not a paper exercise, and new analyses may point in new directions. As a result, although ONDA also raises concerns regarding alleged substantive and procedural flaws within the Plan, we do not reach those issues today. The problems it identifies
may never arise once the BLM has had a chance to see the choices before it with fresh eyes. We therefore remand to the district court with instructions to remand to the BLM to remedy the deficiencies we have discussed."

Access the complete 57-page opinion (
click here).