United States District Court, D. Idaho
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
J. Lodge United States District Judge
before the Court in the above-entitled matter are the
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment filed by the parties in
this environmental case. The Motions are fully briefed and
ripe for the Court's consideration. 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 decisional process would not
be significantly aided by oral argument, the Motions are
decided on the record without a hearing. For the reasons
stated below, the Court grants the Defendants' Motion for
Summary Judgment and denies Plaintiffs' Motion for
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Clearwater County and Idaho County, have brought this action
against the Defendants the United States Forest Service
(“Forest Service”); Clearwater National Forest;
Faye Kruger, Regional Forester, Northern Region; and Rick
Brazell, Forest Supervisor for the Clearwater National
Forest. Plaintiffs challenge the Forest Service's August
2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement
(“FEIS”) and November 11, 2011 Record of Decision
(“ROD”) wherein the Forest Service proposes
implementation of the Clearwater National Forest Travel
Management Plan (“Travel Plan”) and selection of
the chosen action alternative, Alternative C Modified,
designating motorized roads and trails in the Clearwater
National Forest (“CNF”). (Dkt. 1.) In particular,
Plaintiffs dispute the Forest Service's closure of
approximately 200 miles of trail to motorized use where such
use was previously allowed as well as other restrictions on
open motorized use, bicycle use, and snowmobile use in the
CNF. (Dkt. 1 at ¶ 2.) Plaintiffs seek declaratory and
injunctive relief setting aside the ROD and Travel Plan and
remanding the matter for further analysis.
claims are brought under the Administrative Procedure Act
(“APA”), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.,
alleging the Defendants' violated the Federal Land Policy
and Management Act (“FLPMA”), 43 U.S.C. §
1701 et seq.; National Environmental Policy Act
(“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.;
National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”), 16
U.S.C. § 1600 et seq.; the Wilderness Act, 16
U.S.C. § 1131 et seq.; the 2005 Travel
Management Rule; and the implementing regulations of these
statutes, including the Forest Plan for the CNF. (Dkt. 1.)
Defendants counter that their decisions and actions were in
accord and fully complied with the applicable standards and
requirements of these statutes. (Dkt. 22.) Both parties have
filed Motions for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. 57,
Three organizations have intervened as Defendants in this
matter - Great Burn Study Group, Idaho Conservation League,
and The Wilderness Society (collectively
“Intervenors”) - and have jointly filed briefing
on the summary judgment motions as well. (Dkt. 59, 66, 72.)
The Court finds as follows.
a procedural statute that requires federal agencies to
“assess the environmental consequences of their actions
before those actions are undertaken.”
Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Ctr. v. Bureau of Land
Mgmt., 387 F.3d 989, 993 (9th Cir. 2004). NEPA serves
two fundamental purposes: (1) to require agency consideration
of detailed information concerning significant environmental
impacts; and (2) to ensure that the public can both access
and contribute to that body of information via comments.
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. Nuclear Regulatory
Comm'n, 449 F.3d 1016, 1034 (9th Cir. 2006)
(citation omitted). NEPA “does not mandate particular
results, but simply describes the necessary process”
that an agency must follow in issuing an EIS. Kettle
Range Conservation Grp. v. United States Forest Serv.,
148 F.Supp.2d 1107, 1116 (E.D. Wash. 2001) (citing
Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490
U.S. 332, 349 (1989)). NEPA is designed to ensure that
federal agencies take a “hard look” at the
environmental consequences of a proposed federal agency
action. Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc.,
555 U.S. 7, 23 (2008). Taking a “hard look”
requires the agency to consider “all foreseeable direct
and indirect impacts” as well as discuss “adverse
impacts that do not improperly minimize negative side
effects.” N. Alaska Envtl. Ctr. v. Kempthorne,
457 F.3d 969, 975 (9th Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks
and citations omitted); see also Or. Natural Res. Council
Fund v. Brong, 492 F.3d 1120, 1133 (9th Cir. 2007)
(“[G]eneral statements about possible effects and some
risk do not constitute a hard look absent a justification
regarding why more definitive information could not be
provided.”) (internal quotation marks omitted).
sets forth the statutory framework and specifies the
procedural and substantive requirements under which the
Forest Service is to manage National Forest System lands.
Congress enacted NFMA to “serve the national
interest” by ensuring that “renewable resource
program[s] [for the National Forests] [ ] be based on a
comprehensive assessment of present and anticipated uses,
demand for, and supply of renewable resources from the
Nation's public and private forests and rangelands,
” and that the agency manage the national forest system
so as to provide multiple use and sustained yield
opportunities. 16 U.S.C. § 1600(3). “NFMA requires
the Forest Service to develop comprehensive management plans
for each unit of the National Forest System, 16 U.S.C. §
1604(a), and all subsequent agency action must be consistent
with the governing forest plan § 1604(i).”
Greater Yellowstone Coalition v. Lewis, 628 F.3d
1143, 1149 (9th Cir. 2010); see also Earth Island Inst.
v. United States Forest Serv., 351 F.3d 1291, 1300 (9th
Cir. 2003) (citing 16 U.S.C. §§ 1604(a) and (i))).
“In developing and maintaining each plan, the Forest
Service is required to use a systematic interdisciplinary
approach to achieve integrated consideration of physical,
biological, economic, and other sciences.” Greater
Yellowstone, 628 F.3d at 1149 (citation and quotations
omitted); see also 16 U.S.C. § 1604(b).
purpose is to manage public lands for “multiple use, [
] with an increased emphasis on the management of the public
lands ‘in a manner that will protect the quality of
scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental,
air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological
values.'” W. Watersheds Project v.
Kraayenbrink, 632 F.3d 472, 478 (9th Cir. 2010) (citing
43 U.S.C. § 1701(a)(8)). FLPMA also provides that the
“public lands be managed in a manner that...will
provide food and habitat for fish and wildlife and domestic
animals; and that will provide for outdoor recreation and
human occupancy and use.” 43 U.S.C. § 1701(a)(8).
review of administrative agency decisions is made under the
APA. 5 U.S.C. § 702. Such review is based on the
administrative record compiled by the agency - not on
independent fact-finding by the district court. Camp v.
Pitts, 411 U.S. 138, 142 (1973). APA claims may be
resolved via summary judgment pursuant to the standard set
forth in Rule 56. See Nw. Motorcycle Ass'n v. United
States Dept. Agric., 18 F.3d 1468, 1472 (9th Cir. 1994).
Summary judgment is appropriate where “there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” See
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). The APA requires that the agency
action be upheld unless it is “arbitrary, capricious,
an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with
law.” League of Wilderness Defs. Blue Mnts.
Biodiversity Proj. v. Allen, 615 F.3d 1122, 1130 (9th
Cir. 2010) (quoting 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A)).
are two standards governing review of agency actions under
the APA. See Price Rd. Neighborhood Ass'n, Inc. v.
United States Dept. of Transp., 113 F.3d 1505, 1508 (9th
Cir. 1997); Alaska Wilderness Rec. & Tour. v.
Morrison, 67 F.3d 723 (9th Cir. 1995). Factual disputes
implicating substantial agency expertise are reviewed under
the arbitrary and capricious standard and legal issues are
reviewed under the reasonableness standard. Idaho
Sporting Congress, Inc. v. Rittenhouse, 305 F.3d 957,
964 (9th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). These standards
reflect the axiomatic distinction between “the strong
level of deference we accord an agency in deciding factual or
technical matters [and] that to be accorded in disputes
involving predominantly legal questions.” Price
Rd., 113 F.3d at 1508.). Both standards may be applied
in the same case to different issues.
agency's factual decision will be deemed arbitrary and
only if the agency relied on factors Congress did not intend
it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important
aspect of the problem, or offered an explanation that runs
counter to the evidence before the agency or is so
implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in
view or the product of agency expertise.
Wildland CPR, Inc. v. United States Forest Serv.,
872 F.Supp.2d 1064, 1074-75 (D. Mont. 2012) (quoting
Gardner v. United States BLM, 638 F.3d 1217, 1224
(9th Cir. 2011) (quoting Lands Council v. McNair,
537 F.3d 981, 987 (9th Cir. 2008)). That is to say, when an
agency reaches a decision based on its expert review of the
facts, a reviewing court should determine only whether the
decision was “arbitrary or capricious.” Price
Rd., 113 F.3d at 1508.
scope of review under the arbitrary and capricious standard
is narrow and courts do not substitute their judgment for
that of the agency. MotorVehicle Mfrs. Ass'n v.
State Farm Mutual Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29,
43 (1983); Western Watersheds Proj. v. United
States BLM, 181 F.Supp.3d 673, 677 (D. Ariz. 2016)
(citation omitted). The arbitrary and capricious standard is
“highly deferential, presuming the agency action to be
valid and [requires] affirming the agency action if a
reasonable basis exists for its decision.” Indep.
Acceptance Co. v. California, 204 F.3d 1247, 1251 (9th
Cir. 2000) (quotations and citations omitted). When applying
this standard, courts grant substantial deference to the
decisions and actions of federal agency defendants in
adopting and implementing certain agency activities. See
Trout Unlimited v. Lohn, 559 F.3d 946, 958 (9th Cir.
2009) (quoting Nat. Wildlife Fed'n v. United States
Army Corps of Eng'rs, 384 F.3d 1163, 1174 (9th Cir.
2004) (“Where scientific and technical expertise is
necessarily involved in agency decision- making, ... a
reviewing court must be highly deferential to the judgment of
the agency.”)). “Where the question presented for
review is a factual dispute which implicates ‘a high
level of technical expertise' we defer to ‘the
informed discretion of the responsible federal
agencies.'” Bahr v. United States EPA, 836
F.3d 1218, 1229 (9th Cir. 2016) (quoting Kleppe v. Sierra
Club, 427 U.S. 390, 412 (1976)). The APA's
“highly deferential standard” of review “is
highest when reviewing an agency's technical analyses and
judgments involving the evaluation of complex scientific data
within the agency's technical expertise.”
League of Wilderness Defs., 615 F.3d at 1130.
even as to factual and technical matters, the agency must
still examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory
explanation for its action including a “rational
connection between the facts found and the choice
made.” MotorVehicle, 463 U.S. at 43 (citing
Burlington Truck Lines v. United States, 371 U.S.
156, 168 (1962)); see also City of Sausalito v.
O'Neill, 386 F.3d 1186, 1206 (9th Cir. 2004). In
reviewing that explanation, the court must “consider
whether the decision was based on a consideration of the
relevant factors and whether there has been a clear error of
judgment.” Id. (citations omitted); see
also Marsh v. Or. Nat. Resources Council, 490 U.S. 360,
378 (1989) (quoting Citizens to Preserve Overton Park,
Inc. v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 416 (1971)). The court may
not overturn an agency decision simply because it disagrees
with the decision or with the agency's conclusions about
environmental impacts. River Runners for Wilderness v.
Martin, 593 F.3d 1064, 1070 (9th Cir. 2010) (The
“court may not substitute its judgment for that of the
agency concerning the wisdom or prudence of the agency's
action.”) (citation omitted).
dispute is primarily legal in nature, or concerns a threshold
question of law, this Court applies the more lenient, but
less deferential, “reasonableness” standard.
San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace v. Nuclear Regulatory
Com'n, 449 F.3d 1016, 1028 (9th Cir. 2006) (citing
Alaska Wilderness Rec. & Tourism Ass'n, 67
F.3d at 727 (reviewing predominately legal issue for
reasonableness because “it makes sense to distinguish
the strong level of deference we accord an agency in deciding
factual or technical matters from that to be accorded in
disputes involving predominately legal questions”);
Ka Makani‘O Kohala Ohana, Inc. v. Dept. of Water
Supply, 295 F.3d 955, 959 (9th Cir. 2002)
(“Because this case involved primarily legal issues ...
based on undisputed historical facts, we conclude that the
‘reasonableness' standard should apply to this
case.”)). The “reasonableness” standard of
review, applies only to those “rare” cases in
which the agency's decision raises legal, not factual,
questions. Kettle Range, 148 F.Supp.2d at 1116
(citation omitted). Under this standard, the Court will
uphold the agency's decision unless it is unreasonable.
Friends of the Earth v. Hintz, 800 F.3d 822, 836
(9th Cir. 1986).
challenge the Plaintiffs' standing to bring their claims
arguing they have failed to demonstrate an actual or imminent
injury resulting from the approval of the Travel Plan. (Dkt.
65, 71.) In particular, Defendants point out the Plaintiffs
have not filed anything, beyond the allegations in their
Complaint, sufficient to establish standing at the summary
judgment stage. (Dkt. 71.) Plaintiffs counter arguing the
allegations in their Complaint adequately demonstrate
standing and, additionally, that they have procedural
standing based on their allegations that the Forest Service
failed to coordinate with the counties and failed to provide
the counties with the requisite notice and opportunity to
participate in the process. (Dkt. 69 at 5-7.)
III of the United States Constitution restricts judicial
power to deciding actual cases and controversies. Summers
v. Earth Island Inst., 555 U.S. 488, 493 (2009). Thus,
the doctrine of standing “requires federal courts to
satisfy themselves that the plaintiff has alleged such a
personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to
warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction.”
Id. (citations and quotations omitted). Plaintiffs,
as the party invoking federal jurisdiction, bear the burden
of establishing standing. Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61 (1992). To satisfy
Article III's standing requirements, a plaintiff must
show “(1) it has suffered an ‘injury in fact'
that is (a) concrete and particularized and (b) actual or
imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical; (2) the injury is
fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant;
and (3) it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that
the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.”
Friends of the Earth, Inc. v. Laidlaw Envtl. Servs. (TOC)
Inc., 528 U.S. 167, 180-81 (2000) (quoting Def. of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 560-61); see also Jayne v.
Sherman, 706 F.3d 994, 999 (9th Cir. 2013). A plaintiff
bringing suit challenging a statutory provision under the APA
must also show that its alleged injury falls within the
“zone of interests” that the statute was designed
to protect. Cantrell v. City of Long Beach, 241 F.3d
674, 679 (9th Cir. 2001) (citing Douglas Cnty. v.
Babbit, 48 F.3d 1495, 1499-1500 (9th Cir. 1995)). To
survive a motion for summary judgment raising standing, the
counties must set forth “specific facts” by
affidavit or by other admissible evidence demonstrating that
they have suffered an “injury in fact” as a
result of the agency's action. Friends of the
Earth, 528 U.S. at 180-81; see also Def. of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 561 (In responding to a summary
judgment motion, the plaintiff must set forth by affidavit
specific facts to show that it has Article III standing.).
Plaintiffs argue the allegations in the Complaint establish
their concrete interests and particularized actual harm, to
both the Counties themselves and the individual citizens who
reside or are employed in the Counties, resulting from the
Defendants' decision adopting the Travel Plan. (Dkt. 1 at
¶ 15) (Dkt. 69 at 5-7.) Such harm can be remedied,
Plaintiffs allege, if the Court were to overturn the
Defendants' decision concerning the Travel Plan. (Dkt. 1
at ¶ 16.) In responding to a summary judgment motion,
however, Plaintiffs can “no longer rest on such
‘mere allegations, ' but must ‘set forth'
by affidavit or other evidence ‘specific facts,
'...which for purposes of the summary judgment motion
will be taken as true.” Def. of Wildlife, 504
U.S. at 561. No affidavits or other evidence have been
provided in this case by Plaintiffs that set forth
“specific facts” supporting their allegations.
There f o r e, t h e C o u r t f i n d s t h e P l aintiffs
have failed to establish Article III standing. For the same
reason, the Court finds Plaintiffs have also failed to show
argue their claims alleged the Defendants violated the
procedural rules of several federal statutes giving them
“procedural standing.” (Dkt. 69 at 5-7.) Where
the claims allege procedural injuries - i.e., the defendants
violated various federal statutes and regulations resulting
in injuries to plaintiffs - procedural standing may exist. To
establish statutory standing, a plaintiff alleging a
procedural injury must first show that the agency procedures
in question were designed to protect a threatened concrete
interest that is the “ultimate basis” of its
standing. Cantrell, 241 F.3d at 679 (citing Def.
of Wildlife, 504 U.S. at 573 n. 8). This requires a
showing that (1) the agency violated certain procedural
rules, (2) those rules protect the plaintiff's concrete
interests, and (3) it is reasonably probable that the
challenged action will threaten the plaintiff's concrete
interests. Citizens for Better Forestry v. United States
Dep't of Agric., 341 F.3d 961, 969-70 (9th Cir.
2003). A plaintiff shows injury to a “concrete
interest” when the plaintiff “will suffer harm by
virtue of [its] geographic proximity to and use of areas that
will be affected” by the challenged agency action.
Id. at 971. For procedural standing, once the
plaintiff has established a “reasonable
probability” that the challenged action threatens its
concrete interest, the “inquiry into the imminence of
the threatened harm is less demanding… and the
causation and redressability requirements are relaxed.”
California ex rel. Imperial Cnty. Air Pollution Control
Dist. v. United States Dept. of Interior, 767 F.3d 781,
789-90 (9th Cir. 2014) (quoting Hall v. Norton, 266
F.3d 969, 976 (9th Cir. 2001) and Cantrell, 241 F.3d
again, Plaintiffs have not come forward with any affidavits
or evidence beyond the allegations in their Complaint to
satisfy their burden to show procedural standing. This is
fatal to Plaintiffs' cause of action at the summary
the fact that standing has not been shown, for the sake of
completeness, the Court has considered the merits of the
Plaintiffs' claims and, for the reasons stated below,
grants Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgement.
The Clearwater National Forest Plan
lies in north-central Idaho and comprises 1, 827, 380 total
acres of forest lands offering a mix of diverse outdoor
opportunities to its visitors including camping, hunting,
hiking, skiing, biking, off-road vehicular travel, fishing,
whitewater boating, and bird/nature viewing. (Dkt. 1 at
¶ 8.) Approximately half of the CNF, 950, 311 acres, are
designated as inventoried roadless areas (“IRA”).
(AR 3343.) 198, 200 acres of the IRAs have been deemed
Recommended Wilderness Areas; meaning they are candidates for
prospective Wilderness designation by Congress. (AR 3342.)
The CNF is also home to many species of animals and fish as
well as their habitats.
1987, the Forest Service approved the Forest Plan which set
forth goals and objectives for multiple resource management
in the CNF as well as standards and guidelines for specific
activities and projects. (AR 42365, 42885.) In 2005, the
Forest Service published the Travel Management Rule, 36
C.F.R. §§ 212.1-261.55, which mandates certain
changes to the management of motor vehicle use on National
Forest System lands. Prior to the Travel Management Rule,
motor vehicle use on public lands was largely unregulated
resulting in uncontrolled cross-country motor vehicle use,
unplanned routes, and damage to the resources. The Travel
Management Rule was instituted to eliminate cross-country
motor vehicle use by requiring designation of routes and
areas for motor vehicle use. See 36 C.F.R.
§§ 212.50(b), 212.55. The designated routes are
displayed on a Motor Vehicle Use Map (“MVUM”)
which is annually updated and provided to the public. Any
motor vehicle use inconsistent with the MVUM is prohibited.
See 36 C.F.R. § 261.13.
response to the Travel Management Rule, the Forest Service
compiled the August 2011 FEIS and November 2011 ROD, as well
as the related materials in the Administrative Record, for
the CNF that are at issue in this case. These documents
identify the alternative selected by the Forest Supervisor
for the CNF as Alternative C Modified which establishes the
Travel Plan with a system of designated routes for motorized
uses, which Defendants argue, provides the best mix ...