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Valley County v. United States Dep't of Agric.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

February 11, 2014

VALLEY COUNTY, IDAHO, Plaintiff,
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 United 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 KEITH LANNOM, in his capacity as Forest Supervisor for the Payette National Forest, Defendants. IDAHO RECREATION COUNCIL, an Idaho non-profit corporation; CHRIS and LOIS SCHWARZHOFF, husband and wife; Plaintiffs,
v.
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, a federal agency within the Department of Agriculture; SUZANNE C. RAINVILLE, Forest Supervisor, Payette National Forest; and BRANT PETERSEN, District Ranger, Krassel Ranger District, Payette National Forest, Defendants

Page 920

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Valley County (1:11-cv-00233-BLW), Plaintiff: David R Lombardi, LEAD ATTORNEY, GIVENS PURSLEY, Boise, ID; Jay J Kiiha, Kiiha Law Office, PLLC, Cascade, ID; Preston N Carter, Givens Pursley LLP, Boise, ID.

For Idaho Recreation Council, Chris Schwarzhoff, Lois Schwarzhoff (1:11-cv-00233-BLW), Plaintiffs: Daniel V Steenson, David P Claiborne, Sawtooth Law Offices, PLLC, Boise, ID; Paul A Turcke, MOORE SMITH BUXTON & TURCKE, Boise, ID.

For United States Department of Agriculture, an agency of the United States, Tom Vilsack, in his capacity as Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, 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, Keith Lannom, in his capacity as Forest Supervisor of the Payette National Forest (1:11-cv-00233-BLW), Defendants: Julia Sharon Thrower, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, San Francisco, CA; Syrena Case Hargrove, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Boise, ID.

For United States Forest Service, an agency within the United States Forest Department of Agriculture, Forest Supervisor Suzanne C. Rainville, Forest Supervisor, Payette National Forest (1:11-cv-00233-BLW), Defendants: Julia Sharon Thrower, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, San Francisco, CA; Syrena Case Hargrove, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Boise, ID.

For Brant Petersen, District Ranger, Krassel Ranger District, Payette National Forest (1:11-cv-00233-BLW), Defendant: Julia Sharon Thrower, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, San Francisco, CA; Syrena Case Hargrove, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Boise, ID.

For Idaho Recreation Council, Chris Schwarzhoff, Lois Schwarzhoff (1:09-cv-00275-BLW), Plaintiffs: Daniel V Steenson, David P Claiborne, Sawtooth Law Offices, PLLC, Boise, ID.

For U.S. Forest Service, a federal agency within the Dept of Agriculture, Suzanne C. Rainville, Forest Supervisor, Payette National Forest, Brant Petersen, District Ranger, Krassel Ranger District, Payette National Forest (1:09-cv-00275-BLW), Defendants: Julia Sharon Thrower, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Department of Justice, San Francisco, CA; Syrena Case Hargrove, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Boise, ID.

OPINION

Page 922

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

B. Lynn Winmill, Chief United States District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

The Court has before it cross-motions for summary judgment. The Court heard oral argument on December 11, 2013, and took the motions under advisement. For the reasons expressed below, the Court will grant each motion in part. The Court finds that (1) the 2007 EIS and 2008 ROD violate NEPA; (2) the 2010 EA/FONSI does not violate NEPA; and (3) the parties should attempt to reach an agreement on a remedy before submitting that issue to the Court in another round of briefing. The Court's analysis is set forth below.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This dispute focuses on 972 miles of " unauthorized" roads in the Payette National Forest (PNF). Valley County argues that the Forest Service has closed these roads without any evaluation of the environmental impacts of closure as required by NEPA. The Forest Service responds that it has evaluated those environmental impacts and has complied with NEPA. To resolve this dispute, the Court must first review the history of the Forest Service's management of motorized travel in the PNF.

In 2003, the Forest Plan for the Payette National Forest (PNF) identified a number of concerns related to travel management, including the impacts to wildlife and water quality from motorized travel on unauthorized routes. The Forest Supervisor, however, decided not to analyze travel management in detail at that time and continued to rely instead on a travel management plan that had been adopted in 1995.

The concerns over travel management became national in scope, and in 2005, the Forest Service issued new travel management regulations. The new regulations required each National Forest to designate roads open to motorized vehicle use and prohibit vehicle use off the designated system. See 36 C.F.R § 212.51.

Pursuant to those regulations, the PNF prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement in 2007 (2007 FEIS) evaluating various options for designating a system of roads and trails in the PNF. The 2007 EIS, in its discussion of the impacts of roads generally, observes that they " accelerate erosion and deliver sediment to streams." FSO18334. This erosion and sediment delivery " have been identified as a primary source of water quality pollution in many [PNF] watersheds." FS018556. These impacts on water quality and soil productivity " have affected the existing condition of all [Management Areas within the PNF] to varying degrees." FS018561.

The PNF contains about 972 miles of " unauthorized" roads. The 2007 FEIS defines unauthorized roads as " roads that are not part of the National Forest System roads and included in the forest transportation atlas." FS18401. Only non-motorized use is allowed on unauthorized roads, FS018400-01, but the Forest Service has no plans to physically block or rehabilitate these roads. FS018584.

The impact from the use of these 972 miles of unauthorized roads was not directly evaluated by the 2007 FEIS. This absence was explained by the Forest Service in the 2007 FEIS as follows:

The difficulty with unauthorized roads lies in the fact that the Forest does not have complete information on their level or type of use, condition, or ...

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