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American Independence Mines and Minerals Co v. United States Department of Agriculture

December 16, 2010

AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE MINES AND MINERALS CO., AN IDAHO JOINT VENTURE COMPOSED OF IVY MINERALS, INC., AN IDAHO CORPORATION, AND WALKER MINING COMPANY, AN IDAHO CORPORATION; AND IVY MINERALS, INC., AN IDAHO CORPORATION, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, AN AGENCY OF THE UNITED STATES; TOM VILSACK, IN HIS CAPACITY AS SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE OF THE UNITED STATES; UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, AN AGENCY WITHIN THE UNITES STATES FOREST DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE; TOM TIDWELL, IN HIS CAPACITY AS CHIEF OF THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE; HARVEY FORSGREN, IN HIS CAPACITY AS REGIONAL FORESTER FOR THE INTERMOUNTAIN REGION OF THE UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE; BRENT L. LARSON, IN HIS CAPACITY AS FOREST SUPERVISOR OF THE CARIBOU-TARGHEE NATIONAL FOREST; AND SUZANNE C. RAINVILLE, IN HER CAPACITY AS FOREST SUPERVISOR FOR THE PAYETTE NATIONAL FOREST, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Edward J. Lodge U. S. District Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Plaintiff's Motion to Alter or Amend Order and Judgment. The parties have filed their briefing and matter is ripe for the Court's consideration. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this motion shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, American Independence Mines and Minerals Company, is an Idaho joint venture composed of Plaintiffs Ivy Minerals, Inc. and Walker Mining Company (collectively the "Plaintiffs"). (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs state they have been involved in efforts to develop the mineral resources of the Payette National Forest (PNF) in a fashion that minimizes and/or mitigates and remediates environmental impact and stimulates human welfare through economic development. (Dkt. No. 1.) To this end, Plaintiffs claim they have undertaken studies, own property, and are actively engaged in mining, exploration, and environmental assessment activities in the Big Creek area of the Krassel Ranger District in the PNF, known as "MA-13." (Dkt. No. 1.) Such activities, Plaintiffs allege, require the use of "long-established roads, some of which are R.S. 2477 roads, to access existing mining claims and for exploration for mineral deposits which are locatable under the General Mining Act of 1872...." (Dkt. No. 1.)

On November 9, 2005, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Forest Service (FS) enacted the Travel Management Rule requiring National Forests to designate a system of roads, trails, and areas that are open to motor vehicle use and prohibits the unauthorized use of motor vehicles off the designated system. See 70 Fed. Reg. 68,264; see also 70 Fed. Reg. 68,264-68,291 (Nov. 9, 2005). On October 3, 2008, following an extended public comment period, the USDA and FS issued its Record of Decision (ROD) applying the Travel Management Rule to the McCall and Kassel Ranger Districts in the PNF. Plaintiffs oppose the ROD's application of the Travel Management Rule arguing it has adversely affected them, and the public, by closing roads within the PNF that were previously open to the public, including R.S. 2477 roads. (Dkt. No. 1.) The implementation of the Travel Management Rule in the PNF, Plaintiffs further allege, fails to achieve the purposes and requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and R.S. 2477 because there was no requirement that the existing roads in the National Forest be inventoried or reviewed to determine their use by the public and/or property owners before the roads were designated. (Dkt. No. 1, ¶¶ 30, 31.) Plaintiffs argue the ROD will "have the effect of closing and criminalizing the Public Use of multiple roads in the MA-13 area...which were used by [Plaintiffs] and others prior to the issuance of the ROD." (Dkt. No. 1, ¶ 73.)

Following the denial of their appeal, Plaintiffs initiated this action in September of 2009 challenging: 1) November 9, 2005 Travel Management Plan; 2) October 3, 2008 ROD; and 3) January 8, 2009 decision denying Plaintiffs' appeal. (Dkt. No. 1.) Plaintiffs' claims allege violations of NEPA and the National Forest Management Act (NFMA). (Dkt. No. 1.) Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing the Plaintiffs lacked standing to file a NEPA action because their alleged harm is purely economic and, therefore, not within the environmental zone of interests protected by NEPA. (Dkt. No. 18.) Alternatively, Defendants also moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. No. 19.)

On May 12, 2010 the Court entered an Order and Judgment granting the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and dismissing the case in its entirety. (Dkt. No. 31, 32.)*fn1 The Court concluded the Plaintiffs' alleged injury is not within the zone of interests protected by NEPA or NFMA because the alleged harm is purely economic. (Dkt. No. 31, 35.) As a result, Plaintiffs filed the instant Motion asking the Court to amend its Order and Judgment and deny the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, alternatively, amend the dismissal and grant them leave to file an amended complaint. The motion is made pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 59(e). The Defendants oppose the Motion. (Dkt. No. 37.)

STANDARD OF LAW

Motions to alter or amend are governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). Sierra On-Line, Inc. v. Phoenix Software, Inc., 739 F.2d 1415, 1419 (9th Cir. 1984). The scope and purpose of such motions have been analyzed as follows:

Motions for a new trial or to alter or amend a judgment must clearly establish either a manifest error of law or fact or must present newly discovered evidence. These motions cannot be used to raise arguments which could, and should, have been made before the judgment issued. Moreover they cannot be used to argue a case under a new legal theory.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. v. Meyer, 781 F.2d 1260, 1268 (7th Cir. 1986) (citations omitted).

Whatever may be the purpose of Rule 59(e) it should not be supposed that it is intended to give an unhappy litigant one additional chance to sway the judge. . . .

[A] rehash of the arguments previously presented affords no basis for a revision of the Court's order.

Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Co. v. Tabor Grain Co., 488 F.Supp. 110, 122 (N.D. Ill. 1980). Where Rule 59(e) motions are merely being pursued "as a means to reargue matters already argued and disposed of and to put forward additional arguments which [the party] could have made but neglected to make before judgment, [S]uch motions are not properly classifiable as being motions under Rule 59(e)" and must therefore be dismissed. Davis v. Lukhard, 106 F.R.D. 317, 318 (E.D. Va. 1984); see also Above the Belt, Inc. v. Mel Bohannan Roofing, Inc., 99 F.R.D. 99, 101 (E.D. Va. 1983) ("Plaintiff improperly used the motion to reconsider to ask the Court to rethink what the Court had already thought -- rightly or wrongly."). The Ninth Circuit has identified three reasons sufficient to warrant a court's reconsideration of a prior order: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the discovery of new evidence not previously available; and (3) the need to correct clear or manifest error in law or fact, to prevent manifest injustice. School Dist. No. 1J v. ACandS, Inc., 5 F.3d 1255, 1263 (9th Cir. 1993). Upon demonstration of one of these three grounds, the movant must then come forward with "facts or law of a strongly convincing nature to induce the court to reverse its prior decision." Donaldson v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 947 F. Supp. 429, 430 (D. Haw. 1996).

DISCUSSION

The Motion asks that the Order and Judgment be altered or amended to prevent manifest injustice and correct clear legal error; challenging the Court's determination that the Plaintiffs' claims assert purely economic interests outside of both NEPA's and NFMA's the zones of interest. (Dkt. No. 33, 34.) The Court erred, Plaintiffs argue, in its application of the Rule 12(b)(1) standard by failing to draw all reasonable inferences in their favor. When properly construed in their favor, Plaintiffs argue, their claims allege ...


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