Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Ursack, Inc. v. Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group

May 9: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 09-17152. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The Appeals Court explains that the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service require backpackers who visit certain areas in the Sierras to store food in portable bear-resistant containers. Between 2001 and 2007, both the Park Service and the Forest Service required visitors to Yosemite National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks (SEKI), and the Inyo National Forest to use containers that had been tested and approved by the agencies. An informal body known as the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) tested privately manufactured bear-resistant containers and made recommendations to the Park and Forest Services regarding which containers to approve.
    Plaintiff-appellant Ursack, Incorporated manufactures a bear-resistant container called the Ursack. Between 2001 and 2007, it urged SIBBG to recommend the Ursack for inclusion on the agencies' lists of approved containers. Mostly it was unsuccessful, but in 2007, SIBBG recommended that the agencies grant conditional approval to the Ursack for the 2007 summer season. SIBBG recommended that the agencies withdraw approval if they determined that the container failed three or more times during the season. The agencies accepted the recommendation and granted conditional approval.
    At the end of the 2007 season, however, SIBBG determined that the Ursack had failed more than three times, and it recommended that the agencies withdraw conditional approval. The National Park Service accepted this recommendation and withdrew conditional approval, and to this day it refuses to permit backpackers to use the Ursack in the container-only areas of Yosemite and SEKI. The Forest Service, on the other hand, continues to allow backpackers to use the Ursack in Inyo National Forest.
    Ursack and three individual users of the Ursack brought the suit pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) against SIBBG, the Park Service, the Forest Service, and the superintendents of the relevant national parks and forests, alleging that the decision to withdraw conditional approval of the Ursack was arbitrary and capricious and otherwise not in accordance with law. After reviewing the administrative record, the district court granted summary judgment to the agencies. Ursack and the three individuals appealed. The Appeals Court affirmed the district court decision in favor of the agencies.
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [*Land]