Tuesday, February 2, 2010

River Runners For Wilderness v. Martin (Interior Dept.)

Feb 1: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 08-15112. The case concerns the National Park Service’s decision to permit the continued use of motorized rafts and support equipment in Grand Canyon National Park. Plaintiffs contend that such motorized activities impair the wilderness character of the Canyon and that the Park Service’s decision violates its management policies and various Federal statutes. Plaintiffs asked the District Court to set aside the decision under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The Appeals Court indicated that, "For reasons explained in this opinion, Plaintiffs have not satisfied the high threshold required to set aside federal agency actions under the APA." In a footnote, the Appeals Court praised, "The wording of Judge Campbell’s carefully crafted district court opinion with its detailed factual discussion and thorough analysis, with which we agree, has been utilized in this opinion." In its final conclusion, the Appeals Court indicates, "Plaintiffs have failed to establish that the Park Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it adopted the 2006 Management Plan."

On one of the primary issues of concern, i.e. noise, or "impairment of the natural soundscape;" the Appeals Court said, "Plaintiffs argue that the Park Service failed to consider 28 previous studies, but they identify no specific studies for the court to consider. Nor do Plaintiffs cite any recent studies that call into question the findings of the 1993 and 2003 studies. Defendants also note that any studies conducted in the 1970s would have concerned louder two-stroke engines rather than the quieter and cleaner four-stroke engines now used in the Corridor. Finally, the 2003 study specifically considered and summarized the earlier studies relied on by Plaintiffs. Given all of these considerations, the court cannot conclude that the Park Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it concluded that motorized uses do not impair the soundscape of the Park within the meaning of the Organic Act."

Access the complete opinion (click here).