United States District Court, D. Idaho
WILDERNESS WATCH, FRIENDS OF THE CLEARWATER, and WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT Plaintiffs,
TOM VILSACK, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; TOM TIDWELL, Chief, U.S. Forest Service; NORA RASURE, Regional Forester of Region Four of the U.S. Forest Service; CHARLES MARK, Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor; and VIRGIL MOORE, Director, Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill Chief U.S. District Court Judge.
Court has before it defendants' motion to stay judgment.
The motion is fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons
explained below, the Court will grant the motion in part,
staying the Court's order to destroy the wolf collar data
pending the appeal in this case, but will deny the remainder
of the motion.
plaintiffs filed this suit to challenge the Forest
Service's approval of a helicopter project carried out by
the Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) in the Frank
Church Wilderness to tranquilize and collar elk with monitors
to trace their movements. Ignoring a prior directive of the
Court, the Forest Service allowed the project to begin
immediately, preventing plaintiff environmental groups from
being able to timely seek injunctive relief. Within three
days the IDFG project was completed, and 57 elk and 4 wolves
Court held that the project violated NEPA and the Wilderness
Act, and was carried out in violation of a prior Court
directive requiring the Forest Service to give notice of such
projects to allow environmental groups time to object.
See Wilderness Watch v. Vilsack, 229 F.Supp.3d 1170
(D. Idaho 2017). The Court enjoined IDFG Director Virgil
Moore from using in any manner or considering in any manner
the elk and wolf radio-collar data at issue, and ordered that
the data be destroyed. Id.
Forest Service and IDFG appealed the Court's decision,
and IDFG filed a motion to stay the Court's Judgment.
More specifically, IDFG seeks to (1) stay that portion of the
Court's Judgment requiring IDFG to destroy the elk and
wolf data; and (2) stay the prohibition against use or
consideration of the data. IDFG agrees that as a condition of
such stay, IDFG will not use data, or maps or analyses
derived therefrom, obtained from radio collars placed during
the January 2016 helicopter project in the Frank Church
Wilderness to locate wolves for lethal removal.
is not a matter of right, “even if irreparable injury
might otherwise result.” Nken v. Holder, 556
U.S. 418, 433 (2009). It is instead “an exercise of
judicial discretion, ” and “the propriety of its
issue is dependent upon the circumstances of the particular
case.” Id. The IDFG bears the burden of
showing that the circumstances justify an exercise of that
discretion. Id. at 433-34.
Court's decision is guided by four questions: “(1)
whether the stay applicant has made a strong showing that he
is likely to succeed on the merits; (2) whether the applicant
will be irreparably injured absent a stay; (3) whether
issuance of the stay will substantially injure the other
parties interested in the proceeding; and (4) where the
public interest lies.” Washington v. Trump,
847 F.3d 1151, 1164 (9th Cir. 2017). The first two
factors are the “most critical, ” and the last
two are reached “[o]nce an applicant satisfies the
first two factors.” Id.
first to the request to stay the destruction order, the Court
finds that the IDFG could be irreparably injured if it
ultimately prevails on appeal but was forced earlier to
destroy the data. The likelihood that IDFG would prevail on
appeal and obtain a reversal of the destruction order is
perhaps helped by the lack of guiding precedent for that
remedy - while the Court is confident in its ruling, the
Circuit may disagree and would not be bound to affirm by any
precedent. Thus, the first two criteria at least tip in favor
of staying the data destruction order. Granting a stay will
not prejudice the plaintiffs because the Court is not going
to grant the second part of the stay application seeking to
stay the ban on using or considering the data. The
plaintiffs' main concern was that IDFG would use the data
to hunt wolves during the pendency of the appeal. But that
will not occur if the ban is continued.
to the ban itself, there has been no showing that IDFG would
suffer irreparable harm during the pendency of the appeal if
it could not make use of the data - the slight effect on
their game management duties would not rise to the level of
irreparable harm. Moreover, the Court cannot find that IDFG
has made a strong showing that it is likely to prevail on the
issue of the ban on use of the data. The ...