Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Earth Island Institute v. Carlton (USFS)

Nov 8: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 09-16914. Earth Island Institute (Earth Island) appealed interlocutorily the district court's order denying its motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the United States Forest Service (USFS) from conducting post-wildfire logging in the Plumas National Forest. The district court concluded: that the applicable forest plan required only the assessment of habitat for the black-backed woodpecker (woodpecker) at the project level; that the Forest Service met that requirement; that the Forest Service adequately responded to Earth Island's dissenting scientific opinions in the project adoption phases; and that the Forest Service's tree mortality guidelines were not legally enforceable. In a split decision, the Appeals Court majority affirmed the district courts decision.
    The majority concluded, "In short, the district court used the correct standard for analyzing Earth Island's likelihood of success on the merits and did not abuse its discretion in finding that Earth Island failed to show that it was likely to succeed on the merits of its NFMA claims. . . the district court correctly analyzed the likelihood of irreparable harm in sufficient depth without impermissibly conflating this with the other required factors. . . The court concluded that if the injunction was granted, the public would lose the immediate benefits of the reforestation efforts. It did not abuse its discretion in doing so."
    In a dissenting opinion, one of the Justices said, "The majority's denial of a preliminary injunction, like the district court's before it, rests on two fundamental errors. First, the majority concludes that the Forest Service has no obligation to ensure species viability in the Plumas National Forest despite numerous clear statements to the contrary in the Plumas National Forest Plan. Second, it concludes that the RHT Hazard Tree Marking Guidelines are not binding on the Forest Service despite the fact that the Forest Service itself acknowledges that they are. The district court rested its denial of a preliminary injunction almost entirely on its erroneous conclusions regarding Earth Island's likelihood of success on the merits. I would therefore grant a temporary injunction and remand to the district court to reconsider Earth Island's application. . ."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).

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