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Western Watersheds Project, Center For Biological Diversity, Grand v. U.S. Forest Service

January 30, 2012

WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, GRAND CANYON TRUST, AND UTAH ENVIRONMENTAL CONGRESS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
U.S. FOREST SERVICE, DEFENDANT, AND WYOMING STOCK GROWERS ASSN., WYOMING WOOL GROWERS ASSN., PUBLIC LANDS COUNCIL, PETER R. ARAMBEL, AND WYOMING COUNTY COMMISSIONERS ASSN., DEFENDANT-INTERVENORS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Ronald E. Bush U. S. Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Currently pending before the Court is the State of Wyoming's Motion to Intervene (Dkt. 34).

I. BACKGROUND

This case arises out of the United States Forest Service's ("the Forest Service") categorical exclusion of certain grazing reauthorizations from the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321 through 4370. The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005, Pub. Law No. 108-447, 118 Stat. 2809, 3103 (Dec. 8, 2004), for fiscal years 2005 through 2007, allowed a decision made by the Forest Service to authorize grazing on an allotment to be categorically excluded from documentation in an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement under NEPA if: (1) the decision continued current grazing management of the allotment; (2) monitoring indicated that current grazing management was meeting, or satisfactorily moving toward, objectives in the land and resource management plan; and (3) if the decision was consistent with agency policy concerning extraordinary circumstances. Utilizing such a categorical exclusion, the Forest Service re-authorized livestock grazing on several grazing allotments within the Bridger-Teton (Wyoming), Caribou-Targhee (Idaho), Uinta-Wasatch-Cache (Utah), Manti-La Sal (Utah) and Fishlake (Utah) National Forests, without conducting any NEPA environmental analysis. Plaintiffs seek an order reversing each of these categorical exclusion decisions and requiring the Forest Service to conduct an appropriate environmental analysis for these decisions.

The instant motion implicates five categorical exclusion (CE) decisions: (1) South Soda Sheep Allotments CE (Caribou-Targhee National Forest); (2) Southern Wind River Sheep Allotments CE (Bridger-Teton National Forest); (3) Red Castle, East Fork Blacks Fork, Middle Fork Blacks Fork, Lyman Lake, Little West Fork Blacks Fork, and Elizabeth Mountain No. 2 Allotments CE (Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest); (4) South Skyline, Booth Canyon, and Potter Canyon Allotments CE (Manti-La Sal National Forest); and (5) Fremont Allotments CE (Fishlake National Forest).

The following entities have already intervened in this matter by stipulation: Wyoming Stock Growers Assn., Wyoming Wool Growers Assn., Public Lands Council, Peter R. Arambel, and Wyoming County Commissioners Assn. (collective "Wyoming Stock Growers Intervenors"). (Dkt. 46). However, such intervention is limited to issues raised by two CE decisions issued by the Bridger-Teton National Forest, specifically the Southern Wind River Sheep Allotments CE, and the Sweetwater, Blucher Creek, and East Squaw Creek Allotments CE. Id.

II. MOTION TO INTERVENE

The State of Wyoming ("State") seeks to intervene pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a) or (b) because three of the five National Forests at issue are located wholly or partially within the geographic boundaries of the State of Wyoming, specifically the Bridger-Teton National Forest allotments which are at issue in this round of briefing. The State contends that the federal grazing permittees in this allotment also have State grazing leases on lands adjacent to the National Forest, and therefore actions that adversely affect the permittees' ability to graze on federal lands also adversely affect state grazing leases. Based upon that connection, the State contends that it has a substantial interest in this litigation.

A. Standard of Law for Motion to Intervene

Rule 24(a) allows intervention as a matter of right:

On timely motion, the court must permit anyone to intervene who . . . (2) claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.

To measure such an interest, the Ninth Circuit applies a four-part test:

(1) the application for intervention must be timely; (2) the applicant must have a "significantly protectable" interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (3) the applicant must be so situated that the disposition of the action may, as a practical matter, impair or impede the applicant's ability to protect that interest; and (4) the ...


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