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Western Watersheds Project v. Zinke

United States District Court, D. Idaho

September 21, 2018

WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT, and CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, Plaintiffs,
v.
RYAN K. ZINKE, Secretary of Interior; DAVID BERNHARDT, Deputy Secretary of Interior; and UNITED STATES BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, an agency of the United States, Defendants, and, STATE OF WYOMING; WESTERN ENERGY ALLIANCE, Defendants-Intervenors. Enjoin IM 2018-034 Reinstate IM 2010-117

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER RE: PLAINTIFFS' MOTION FOR PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (DOCKET NO. 30) AND PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION

          RONALD E. BUSH CHIEF U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Dkt. No. 30). The Court has heard oral argument from counsel and has carefully considered the record. Being fully advised, the Court enters the following Memorandum Decision and Order:

         I. SUMMARY OF DECISION

         The Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) is a federal agency that, among other things, handles the leasing of oil and gas rights on certain federal lands. The procedures that BLM follows in doing so changed earlier this year when it put into place an Instruction Memorandum (“IM”), supplying new instructions to the agency's offices about how to handle such leases. This new directive is known as IM 2018-034.

         Plaintiffs Western Watersheds Project and Center for Biological Diversity (collectively “WWP” or Plaintiffs) contend that IM 2018-034 unlawfully constrains environmental review of, and public participation in, BLM oil and gas lease decisions that affect and threaten sage-grouse populations and habitats across the western United States. WWP asks the Court to stop BLM, through a preliminary injunction, from conducting oil and gas lease sales under the procedures of IM 2018-034 and instead follow the requirements which existed previously - specifically those contained in IM 2010-117 (issued in 2010, during the prior presidential administration) - until the legal challenges to IM 2018-034 can be adjudicated on the merits.

         After the Complaint was filed, two parties, the State of Wyoming (“Wyoming”) and an oil and gas industry association known as Western Energy Alliance (“WEA”), asked the Court to allow their intervention to participate in the lawsuit, which the Court allowed.

         On September 6, 2018, the Court conducted a hearing to consider WWP's request for a preliminary injunction. The Court took under advisement the arguments of the parties, both in the written briefing and the oral argument, and now issues this Memorandum Decision and Order upon the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Under the legal standards that apply to preliminary injunctions and the requirements of federal law found in the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), and the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have shown a substantial case for success on the merits of their claims and that irreparable harm is likely to result in the absence of an injunction. Further, the Court concludes, after a weighing of the equities and the public interest, that such equities tip in favor of, and the public interest is best served by, granting the Motion. Although this Memorandum Decision and Order reflects that the Court is persuaded on the present record that Plaintiffs have a likelihood of success on the merits, this is not a final decision on the merits of the case.

         The preliminary injunction requires that, for oil and gas leases scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2018 and thereafter, BLM must (1) re-implement certain provisions contained in IM 2010-117 as to the nature of, and time periods for, public involvement and protest in the oil and gas leasing process; and (2) discontinue the use of conflicting procedures contained in IM 2018-034. In general, the requirement that BLM return to the provisions of IM 2010-117 on these specific matters will allow a fuller opportunity for public involvement and comment in BLM's decision-making processes affecting potential oil and gas leases on federal lands in areas of federally-recognized sage-grouse habitat. Doing so will remedy for present purposes the harm and hardships caused by BLM's curtailment or preclusion of the opportunity for meaningful public participation in the oil and gas leasing process (as implemented in IM 2018-034), which on the present record appears to violate public participation requirements of both FLPMA and NEPA. Further, the requirements of the preliminary injunction will serve the public interest by providing BLM with the benefit of more meaningful public participation in the agency decision-making process. The details of what is required of BLM to comply with the preliminary injunction are found in the body of this Memorandum Decision and Order.

         The preliminary injunction does not apply to BLM oil and gas lease procedures on federal lands that are not within federally-recognized boundaries encompassing greater sage-grouse habitat management areas (as described and depicted more fully below). Plaintiffs contend that their standing to bring this lawsuit and the alleged injuries they have suffered or will suffer are directly tied to those areas of the federally-owned or federally-managed lands. Further, the preliminary injunction does not apply to oil and gas leases that have been the subject of sales already conducted or that are currently scheduled in the remainder of the third quarter of 2018. For those oil and gas leases, the weighing of the hardships and the public interest does not tip in favor of Plaintiffs, but rather tips in Defendants' favor, and those who have received such leases or are bidding, or have bid, upon such leases. Finally, the preliminary injunction does not affect the existing six-month “Parcel Review Timeframe” implemented in IM 2018-034.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Broadly speaking, this case challenges what WWP contends are unlawful actions by the Trump Administration, through Federal Defendants, to promote and expedite oil and gas leasing on public lands that, according to WWP, “will adversely impact essential habitats and populations across the range of the greater sage-grouse . . ., and violate bedrock environmental laws including [FLPMA], [NEPA], and the [APA].” Compl. ¶ 1 (Dkt. 1). More specifically, WWP alleges that Federal Defendants have issued a series of orders, scientific reports, and directives that cast aside and disregard previously implemented protections for sage-grouse populations. At the same time, contends WWP, such actions also limit or preclude opportunities for public involvement during the oil and gas leasing process - materializing (as of the time that WWP initiated this case) in eight “final” BLM oil and gas lease sales (three in Montana, one in Utah, and four in Wyoming) that impact sage-grouse habitats. See id. at ¶¶ 1-14, 73-225.

         WWP challenges these leasing actions as violating the 2015 Sage-Grouse Plan Amendments to BLM Resource Management Plans, FLPMA, NEPA, and the APA. See id. at ¶¶ 276-307. WWP additionally challenges two recently-implemented BLM IMs that WWP claims revised BLM oil and gas leasing and development decision process without any public procedures (notice and comment) or environmental review: (1) IM 2018-026, which overrides the “prioritization” requirement of the 2015 Sage-Grouse Plan Amendments (prioritizing oil and gas leasing outside of identified sage-grouse habitat); and (2) IM 2018-034, which impacts environmental analysis of oil and gas leasing and development decisions, while limiting public notice and involvement in those decisions. See id. at ¶¶ 98-112. The pending motion for injunctive relief pertains to IM 2018-034 only.

         Issued on January 31, 2018, IM 2018-034 contains this language as to its claimed purpose:

Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) sets out the policy of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to simplify and streamline the leasing process to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens, to expedite the offering of lands for lease, and to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act (30 U.S.C. § 226), Executive Order 13783, and Secretary Order 3354.

IM 2018-034, “Purpose” p. 1, attached as Ex. A to Lucas Decl. (Dkt. 30-11). IM 2018-034 “supersedes existing policy” contained in IM 2010-117 and replaces “any conflicting guidance or directive found in the BLM Manual or Handbook.” Id.

         According to WWP, BLM issued IM 2018-034 without any public notice, comment, or environmental review, and directs BLM offices to discard procedures under the previous IM 2010-117 for environmental reviews and limit public involvement in oil and gas leasing decisions. Such action, WWP contends, violates FLPMA, NEPA, and the APA. WWP seeks injunctive relief prohibiting Federal Defendants from implementing certain IM 2018-034's provisions, while reinstating corresponding provisions from IM 2010-117 - in particular:

. Enjoin IM 2018-034, Section III.A - “Parcel Review Timeframes” and reinstate IM 2010-117, Section IIIA - “Parcel Review Timeframes”;
. Enjoin IM 2018-034, Section III.B.5 - “Public Participation” and reinstate IM 2010-117, Section III.C.7 - “Public Participation”;
. Enjoin IM 2018-034, Section III.D - “NEPA Compliance Documentation” and reinstate IM 2010-117, Section IIIE - “NEPA Compliance Documentation”; and
. Enjoin IM 2018-034, Section IV.B - “Lease Sale Parcel Protests” and reinstate IM 2010-117, Section III.H - “Lease Sale Parcel Protests.”

See WWP's Mot. for PI 2 (Dkt. 30).

         A comparison of the pertinent language from the two IMs (with supplied emphases) illustrates the different templates they provide for oil and gas leasing:

Enjoin IM 2018-034
Reinstate IM 2010-117

§ III.A - Parcel Review Timeframes

State/field offices are required, by statute, and implementing regulation, to hold quarterly lease sales, when eligible lands are available for lease. Lease sales should occur in the last month of each calendar year quarter.

The BLM accepts Expressions of Interest (EOI) in lands for potential leasing through the National Fluids Lease Sale System (NFLSS). Members of the public submit EOIs electronically to the BLM using NFLSS. Once submitted, the public can view all EOIs submitted to the BLM. The EOI submitter can track its EOI status using the EOI-specific tracking number provided by NFLSS. NFLSS can display the dates when the EOI was submitted to, and accepted by, the BLM, and its status, such as pending review by the state office, field office, or surface management agency. The BLM also uses the NFLSS to describe lands that the BLM has identified for leasing consideration. NFLSS provides a link to upcoming lease sales. The BLM will identify in NFLSS a deadline for receiving EOIs for each upcoming sale. The deadline will be six months prior to the lease sale month. This EOI deadline also will be posted on the state office website along with the upcoming lease sale schedule.

The timeframe for parcel review for a specific lease sale is to be no longer than 6 months. This will include adjudicating and creating the preliminary parcel list from all timely received EOIs and the other lands identified for leasing consideration in the NFLSS, recognizing there will be exceptions due to unforeseen circumstances, including delays associated with SMA consent.

§ III.A. - Parcel Review Timeframes

State offices will continue to hold sales four times per year, as required by the Mineral Leasing Act . . ., when eligible lands are determined by the state office to be available for leasing. However, state offices will develop a sales schedule with an emphasis on rotating lease parcel review responsibilities among field offices throughout the year to balance the workload and to allow each field office to devote sufficient time and resources to implementing the parcel review policy established in this IM. State offices will extend field office review timeframes, as necessary, to ensure there is adequate time for the field offices to conduct comprehensive parcel reviews.

[No timeframe for parcel review]

BLM will no longer use a rotating schedule for lease sales, as described in IM No. 2010-117. Each state office will review all lands that are identified in EOIs that were submitted before the EOI cutoff date for a particular quarterly lease sale and will offer all parcels determined to be eligible and available within the state office's jurisdiction

§ III.B.5 - Public Participation

State and field offices may provide for public participation during the NEPA process as part of the review of parcels identified for potential leasing

§ III.C.7 - Public Participation

State and field offices will provide for public participation as part of the review of parcels identified for potential leasing through the NEPA compliance documentation process (see section III.E). State and field offices will identify groups and individuals with an interest in local BLM oil and gas leasing, including surface owners of split estate lands where Federal minerals are being considered for leasing. Interested groups, individuals, and potentially affected split estate surface owners will be kept informed of field office leasing and NEPA activities through updated websites and email lists, and will be invited to comment during the NEPA compliance process.

§ III.D - NEPA Compliance Documentation

The state/field office will determine the appropriate form of NEPA compliance documentation for all lease sale parcels on BLM-managed lands, including parcels for federal subsurface minerals in split estate lands.

If, through the lease parcel review process, the authorized officer confirms that the proposed leasing action has been adequately analyzed in existing NEPA document(s) and is in conformance with the approved RMP, a Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) will be used to document NEPA compliance for the leasing decision. If the authorized officer deems additional analysis to be necessary, then the BLM can prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as appropriate.

If the BLM concludes that a DNA will adequately document that existing NEPA analysis is sufficient to support the proposed action and the action is consistent with the RMP, no further public comment period is required for the DNA.

The State Director or the officer with delegated decision-making authority will use the information provided by the field office authorized officer to determine which parcels to include on an upcoming lease sale.

§ III.E - NEPA Compliance Documentation

The IDPR Team will complete site-specific NEPA compliance documentation for all BLM surface and split estate lease sale parcels. The IDPR Team may include the review of multiple parcels in a single document. Site-specific NEPA compliance documentation must incorporate appropriate information gained through the lease parcel review process described above. In accordance with this IM, the NEPA compliance documentation for oil and gas leasing must include an opportunity for public review, as described below, and the filed office must verify that all legal requirements have been met (e.g., ESA and NHPA).

If, through the lease parcel IDPR Team review process, the authorizing official confirms that the proposed leasing action is adequately analyzed in an existing NEPA document, such that prepared during the MLP process, and is in conformance with the approved RMP, a Determination of NEPA Adequacy (DNA) may be used to document NEPA compliance for the leasing decision . . . . Although not required by law or regulation, field offices will provide a 30-day public review and comment period for the DNA. After consideration of any public comments received on the document, the field office will either finalize the DNA or initiate other appropriate NEPA compliance review. It is expected that the DNA process will only be appropriate in cases where the existing NEPA documentation has adequately incorporated the most current program-specific guidance. If a DNA is not appropriate, then the field office will determine the appropriate NEPA compliance documentation (e.g., environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS)) to be prepared.

Most parcels that the field office determines should be available for lease will require site-specific NEPA analysis. This analysis will typically take the form of an EA, which would be tiered, as appropriate, to the RMP/EIS or a MLP/EA or EIS, if one has been completed for any of the parcels. Scoping for these EAs is optional; however, the interdisciplinary review of lease sale parcels will provide input on the issues, impacts, and potential alternatives to be addressed in the EA. The EA will analyze a no action alternative (no leasing), a proposed leasing action (leasing the parcel(s) in conformance with the land use plan), and any alternatives to the proposed action that may address unresolved resource conflicts. In cases where the field office determines that the necessary terms and conditions under which leasing would be appropriate are not in conformance with the RMP, it will be necessary to amend the RMP before leasing is appropriate. If it is necessary to amend the RMP, the leasing EA (or EIS) must either meet the standards for NEPA documentation to support a plan amendment . . ., or the affected lease parcels must be withdrawn or deferred from leasing until a plan amendment or revision can be completed at a later date.

Although not required by law or regulation, field offices will provide a 30-day public review and comment period for the EA and unsigned Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) of oil and gas leasing before forwarding the leasing recommendation to the State Director . . . . Note: Plan amendments are subject to additional public involvement and protest requirements . . . . The field office will finalize the EA and FONSI considering any public comment received on those documents. If a FONSI is not warranted, the field office may recommend that the parcel be withheld from leasing or that an EIS be prepared to address the site-specific issues in compliance with NEPA

§ IV.B - Lease Sale Parcel Protests

A 10-day public protest period will begin the day the sale notice is posted, along with applicable NEPA documentation. State offices should attempt to resolve protests in a signed decision before the sale of the protested parcels. Parcels subject to protests that are not resolved (i.e., pending protests) will be offered for lease sale. A decision to deny or dismiss a protest will advise the protesting parties of their right to appeal to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA) and will state that an appeal will not automatically halt the auction process.

The number of parcels protested and the status of the protests (i.e., protests dismissed, denied, upheld, or pending) must be publicly posted the day before the sale starts on the BLM state office website and the internet auction website so that bidders understand the protest status of each parcel. Protests upheld should be posted on the state office website and the NFLSS, using normal processes with amendments/notices to withdraw the parcel, no later than the day before the sale starts, and if applicable, on the online leasing website for the sale no later than the day before the sale starts.

[Public notice of the sale is to be given 45 days prior to the sale § IV.A]

§ III.H - Lease Sale Parcel Protests

A 30-day protest period will begin the day the sale notice is posted, as it has in the past. The earlier posting of the sale notice will provide the state and field offices with at least 60 days to review protests before the oil and gas lease sale. The process outlined in this IM - which includes site-specific parcel analysis and increased public participation - will help identify, address, and resolve most issues before the lease sale. When possible, state offices should attempt to resolve protests before the sale of the protested parcels. Protests that are not resolved do not prevent bidding on protested parcels at the auction. Protest decisions should advise the protesting parties of their right to appeal denied protests to the Interior Board of Land Appeals (IBLA), but that appeals will not automatically halt the auction or issuance of leases.

[Public notice of the sale is to be given 90 days prior to the sale § III.G]

Compare IM 2018-034, with IM 2010-117, attached as Ex. B to Lucas Decl. (Dkt. 30-12) (emphasis added) (internal citations omitted); see also, e.g., Compl. at ¶¶ 105-112.

         III. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”)

         “Challenges to final agency actions are reviewed under the deferential standard of the [APA].” Greater Yellowstone Coal. v. Larson, 641 F.Supp.2d 1120, 1129 (D. Idaho 2009). Agency compliance with NEPA and FLPMA is reviewed under the APA. See Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Dep't of Interior, 581 F.3d 1063, 1070 (9th Cir. 2009).

         Under the APA, the reviewing court must set aside the agency's decision if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law, . . . in excess of statutory jurisdiction, . . . [or] without observance of procedure required by law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A), (C), (D). Such a review is “deferential and narrow, establishing a high threshold for setting aside agency action.” River Runners for Wilderness v. Martin, 593 F.3d 1064, 1067 (9th Cir. 2010). A court must not substitute its judgment for that of the agency. Neither should a court just “rubber-stamp” administrative decisions. Ariz. Cattle Growers' Ass'n v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servs., 273 F.3d 1229, 1236 (9th Cir. 2001). Instead, the court must presume the agency action to be valid and uphold it if a reasonable basis exists for the action. See Nw. Ecosystem All. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Servs., 475 F.3d 1136, 1140 (9th Cir. 2007).

         Nevertheless, where an agency “entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, ” the decision is arbitrary and capricious and must be set aside. Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of the U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

         B. Preliminary Injunction

         Within the frame of Rule 65, a preliminary injunction requires that a party establish (1) a likelihood of success on the merits, (2) a likelihood of irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) that the balance of equities tips in its favor, and (4) that an injunction is in the public interest. See Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, 555 U.S. 7, 201 (2008).

         As to a likelihood of success on the merits, that factor has been measured in various ways, including “reasonable probability, ” “fair prospect, ” “substantial case on the merits, ” and “serious legal questions . . . raised.” See Lair v. Bullock, 697 F.3d 1200, 1204 (9th Cir. 2012). Such formulations “are largely interchangeable, ” but require “‘at a minimum'” that a petitioner must show that there is a “‘substantial case for relief on the merits.'” Id. (quoting Leiva-Perez v. Holder, 640 F.3d 962, 968 (9th Cir. 2011)). “The standard does not require [a plaintiff] to show that ‘it is more likely than not that [it] will win on the merits.'” Id. (quoting Leiva-Perez, 640 F.3d at 966); but see All. for the Wild Rockies v. Farnsworth, 2017 WL 1591840, *3 (D. Idaho 2017) (“‘[S]erious questions going to the merits' requires more than showing that ‘success is more likely than not' . . . .”) (emphasis added). “[S]erious questions going to the merits and a balance of hardships that tips sharply towards the plaintiff can support issuance of a preliminary injunction, so long as the plaintiff also shows that there is a likelihood of irreparable injury and that the injunction is in the public interest.” All. for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127, 1135 (9th Cir. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted).[1]

         Ordinarily, a preliminary injunction maintains the status quo pending a final decision on the merits. See Univ. of Tex. v. Camenisch, 451 U.S. 390, 395 (1981); see also Price v. City of Stockton, 390 F.3d 1105, 1117 (9th Cir. 2004) (noting that courts issue injunctive orders to maintain status quo, not “to enjoin all possible breaches of the law.”). “While courts are given considerable discretion in deciding whether a preliminary injunction should enter, injunctive relief is not obtained as a matter of right and is considered to be an extraordinary remedy that should not be granted unless the movant, by a clear showing, carries the burden of persuasion.” Idaho Rivers United v. Probert, 2016 WL 2757690, *6 (D. Idaho 2016). Still, because “haste . . . is often necessary” in deciding whether to grant a preliminary injunction, such relief “is customarily granted [or denied] on the basis of procedures that are less formal and evidence that is less complete than in a trial on the merits.” Camenisch, 451 U.S. at 395. Accordingly, findings of fact and conclusions of law issued at the preliminary injunction phase generally are not binding at later stages in the proceeding. See Shell Offshore Inc. v. Greenpeace, Inc., 815 F.3d 623, 631 n.5 (9th Cir. 2016).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. Federal Defendants' Opposition

         Part and parcel with their overall critique of WWP's likelihood of success on the merits of their underlying claims, Federal Defendants argue that the Court lacks the authority to issue a preliminary injunction in the first instance when (1) WWP has failed to adequately demonstrate standing; (2) WWP's Motion fails to challenge final agency action and therefore is not reviewable under the APA; and (3) WWP's Motion is not ripe for review. See Fed. Defs.' Opp. to Mot. for PI 13-24 (Dkt. 52). The Court is not persuaded by these arguments.

         1. WWP Has Standing

         Article III of the United States Constitution limits judicial power to deciding cases and controversies. This limitation, known as the standing doctrine, requires that a plaintiff have a “personal stake in the outcome of the controversy . . . to warrant his invocation of federal-court jurisdiction.” Warth v. Seldin, 442 U.S. 490, 490-99 (1975). A plaintiff must establish that “he is under threat of suffering ‘injury in fact' that is concrete and particularized; the threat must be actual and imminent, not conjectural and hypothetical; it must be fairly traceable to the challenged action of the defendant; and it must be likely that a favorable judicial decision will prevent or redress the injury.” Jayne v. Sherman, 706 F.3d 994, 999 (9th Cir. 2013).

         Relying on Summers v. Earth Island Inst., 555 U.S. 488 (2009), Federal Defendants argue that WWP lacks standing for failure “to demonstrate that the IM [2018-034] itself causes concrete harm to their interests in the environment.” Fed. Defs.' Opp. to Mot. for PI 14. In Summers, a group of environmental organizations sought a nationwide injunction against the enforcement of Forest Service regulations that exempted small-scale fire-control and timber-salvage projects from the notice, comment, and appeal process that applied to more substantial land management decisions. Summers, 555 U.S. at 490. The plaintiffs specifically challenged a 238-acre salvage sale of timber, called the Burnt Ridge Project, in the Sequoia National Forest. See id. at 491. In mid-litigation, the parties settled their dispute over the Burnt Ridge Project. See id. After the settlement was in place, the district court proceeded to invalidate five regulations and grant a nationwide injunction enjoining their enforcement. See id. at 492. The Ninth Circuit affirmed. See id.

         Reversing, the Supreme Court rejected the plaintiffs' claimed procedural injury - namely, that they had been denied the ability to file comments on some Forest Service actions and will continue to be so denied. See id. at 496. Pointing to the fact that the Burnt Ridge Project had already been resolved, Justice Scalia undercut the plaintiffs' argument, reasoning:

We know of no precedent for the proposition that when a plaintiff has sued to challenge the lawfulness of certain action or threatened action but has settled that suit, he retains standing to challenge the basis for that action (here, the regulation in the abstract), apart from any concrete application that threatens imminent harm to his interests. Such a holding would fly in the face of Article III's injury-in-fact requirement.
Respondents have identified no other application of the invalidated regulations that threatens imminent and concrete harm to the interests of their members.
. . . .
But deprivation of a procedural right without some concrete interest that is affected by the deprivation - a procedural right in vacuo - is insufficient to create Article III standing. Only a person who has been accorded a procedural right to protect his concrete interests can assert that right without meeting all the normal standards for redressibility and immediacy. Respondents alleged such injury in their challenge to the Burnt Ridge Project, claiming that but for the allegedly unlawful abridged procedures they would have been able to oppose the project that threatened to impinge on their concrete plans to observe nature in that specific area. But Burnt Ridge is now off the table.

Id. at 494-97 (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). Federal Defendants submit that this same rationale applies equally to WWP's claims here. See Fed. Defs.' Opp. to Mot. for PI 14 (“Thus, to the extent that Plaintiffs are asserting procedural harms, i.e., truncated public involvement - without also challenging actions to which those procedures apply, they lack standing to do so under Summers.”).

         WWP has identified several specific applications of IM 2018-034 in the 2018 lease sales across the sage-grouse range - each one allegedly threatening lands that various staff and members of WWP use and enjoy. See, e.g., Compl. at ¶¶ 130-225 (identifying current leases that “threaten sage-grouse habitats and populations”). In other words, unlike the already-settled Burnt-Ridge Project that evaporated the plaintiffs' procedural claims in Summers, there is no equivalent circumstance here. Summers is therefore distinguishable from this case.

         Regardless, though reversing the Ninth Circuit and ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing, Summers nonetheless confirmed the rule that environmental organization plaintiffs can assert the standing of their members. See Summers, 555 U.S. at 494 (“While generalized harm to the forest or the environment will not alone support standing, if that harm in fact affects the recreational or even the mere esthetic interests of the plaintiff, that will suffice.”). On that score, the effort by the plaintiffs in Summers to meet that measure of standing fell short. The plaintiffs filed an affidavit from Jim Bensman - a member of one of the plaintiff organizations - that purported to relate a threatened interest beyond the Burnt Ridge Project. See id. at 495. The Court held that Bensman's representation of general plans to visit “several unnamed National Forests in the future” was insufficient to establish standing because Bensman “fail[ed] to allege that any particular timber sale or other project claimed to be unlawfully subject to the regulations will impede a specific and concrete plan of Bensman's to enjoy the National Forests.” Id. (emphasis in original). The Court emphasized that although he referred to a series of projects, Bensman did not “assert . . . any firm intention to visit their locations, saying only that [he] ‘wants to' go there . . . . Such ‘some day' intentions - without any description of concrete plans, or indeed any specification of when the some day will be - do not support a finding of . . . ‘actual or imminent' injury . . . ” Id. at 496 (emphasis in original) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, the Court concluded that there was “a chance, but . . . hardly a likelihood, that Bensman's wanderings w[ould] bring him to a parcel about to be affected by a project unlawfully subject to the regulations.” Id. at 495.

         In contrast, here, WWP's supporting declarations establish that its members frequently and extensively utilize the areas where oil and gas leases overlap with sage-grouse habitats and populations. For example:

. “[T]he Wyoming September 2018 lease sale contains parcels within the Thunder Basin National Grassland, an area that I have visited repeatedly and for which I have advocated strong conservation protections since 2001. I have viewed sage-grouse in this area, camped and hiked in this area, and engaged in photography of this area.” Molvar Decl. ¶ 47 (Dkt. 30-3).
. “The Wyoming December 2018 lease sale contains parcels in Kinney Rim and Adobe Town that are not only priceless due to their outstanding archaeological, scenic, and paleontological values, but also for the excellent sagebrush steppe habitat they provide for sage-grouse. . . . I have extensively explored these areas both as part of my professional efforts to advocate for their protection and for personal recreation over the past two decades or more.” Id. at ¶ 49.
. “The June 2018 Nevada lease sale on the Battle Mountain District also includes parcels I have visited in my yearly sage-grouse viewing trips in March, which provide important sage-grouse habitat. I frequently travel to Nevada, including to Monitor Valley, where oil and gas leasing is proposed. I have viewed and photographed sage-grouse on a lek (sage-grouse mating ground) in Monitor Valley that is adjacent to one of the lease parcels in years past, and plan to return there in 2019 and other future dates in hopes of viewing this iconic species.” Id. . at ¶ 50.
. “On several occasions, I have visited the area where the Normally Pressured Lance (NPL) oil and gas development is proposed . . . . During these visits, I have engaged in wildlife viewing - particularly pronghorn and golden eagles, looked for sage-grouse, and enjoyed the unspoiled scenic vistas and undisturbed sage-grouse habitats in these areas. Major portions of the NPL project area are Priority Habitat Management Areas designated under the Wyoming Greater Sage-Grouse RMP Amendments, and/or winter concentration areas important for the entire sage-grouse population in the Upper Green River Valley” Id. at ¶ 51.
. “I have a long history of recreational experience traveling to and inventorying lands on Nevada BLM's Tonopah and Shoshone-Eureka Field Offices, including extensive experiences viewing sage-grouse in the Little Fish Lake and Monitor Valleys where oil and gas leasing will occur as part of the June 2018 lease sale.” Cunningham Decl. ¶ 12 (Dkt. 30-5).
. “I have in the past enjoyed hiking, birdwatching, wildlife-viewing, photography, field-sketching, and camping in several of the areas where June oil and gas lease sales are occurring, including: Monitor Valley, Little Fish Lake Valley, Hot Creek Valley, and Big Sand Springs Valley.” Id. at ¶ 13.
. “I have been visiting the Monitor Valley every summer since 2006, and I plan to return this summer and in the future as often as I can during vacations. Seeing oil rigs in the vista would negatively impact my ability to escape artificial human developments and seek solitude, quiet, and natural wild landscapes. I have walked around Monitor Valley in the areas of oil and gas leases 006, 002, 011, and 014 to botanize, photograph scenic landscapes, and birdwatch on the valley floor. I plan to return to the Monitor Valley to explore new trailheads in the Monitor Range, and look for sage-grouse, in August 2018 ” Id. at ¶ 14.
. “I have camped in Little Fish Lake Valley in the green Monster trailhead that accesses the Table Mountain Wilderness Area in the Monitor Range, as well as at clear Creek trailhead, which accesses an impressive gorge on the east side of the Monitor Range overlooking Little Fish Lake Valley. This is in the vicinity of oil and gas leases 019 and 025, which I have traveled through to access hiking points and photographic vistas. Oil and gas drilling here would ruin the feel of wild, remote Nevada that I am seeking. I plan to go back here to camp and hike in July 2018.” Id. at ¶ 15.
. “For recreational purposes I have hiked into the Hot Creek Range, camping in the mountains from an access road at South Sixmile Canyon by Morey Peak, driving through the Hot Creek Valley from Highway 6 at Tybo junction. This lies in numerous proposed oil and gas leases in Hot Creek Valley, and would impact my experience of camping and hiking in a remote area.” Id. at ¶ 16.
. “I have toured the Hot Creek Canyon road that enters at Hot Creek Ranch in the vicinity of oil and gas leases 049, 045, and 048. This is a very scenic canyon with stream, meadows, cliffs, and rock formations. I have undertaken wildlife viewing here of desert bighorn sheep, viewing wild horses, landscape photography, botanizing, birdwatching, hiking, and camping. Oil and gas drilling at the mouth of this canyon would negatively affect my ability to escape the signs of industrial developments.” Id. at ¶ 17.
. “I have hiked and camped at Lunar Crater Volcanic Field, which is south of the Big Sands Springs lease area, but in view of the lease area. I have visited this area several times since 1992. There is also a BLM-signed interpretive area . . . that shows a relatively recent basalt volcanic flow in Big Sand Spring Valley that could be in lease areas 134 and 128. This area has a very remote and wild feel, and I come here to get away from urban developments and experience the spiritual renewal that wild central Nevada landscapes can provide. Oil and gas developments would destroy this feel.” Id. at ¶ 19.
. “I have visited many of the parcels offered in the Nevada June oil and gas lease sales during personal and professional trips and am gravely concerned about the impacts the sale and development of those parcels will have on the environment.” Emmerich Decl. ¶ 26 (Dkt. 30-7).
. “I have hiked and camped in the vicinity of the following leases: 008, 009, 011, 006, 002, 014, 010, and 008 - Monitor Range and Monitor Valley. I have personally seen Greater sage-grouse in this part of Monitor Valley.....I have plans to visit Monitor Valley several times in the future. The development of these oil and gas leases will impact my visitor experience to Monitor Valley in the following ways . . . .” Id. . at ¶ 27.
. “I have hiked and camped in the vicinity of the following leases: 053, 056, 058, 021, 022, 027, 025, 052, 050, and 019 - Little Fish Lake Valley. I have seen Greater sage-grouse here. . . . I have plans to visit Little Fish Lake Valley again in the future. The development of these oil and gas leases will impact my visitor experience to Little Fish Lake Valley in the following ways . . . ” Id. at ¶ 28.
. “I have hiked and camped in the vicinity of the following leases: 100, 111, 105, 097, 099, 049, 045, and 046 - the Hot Creek Range and Hot Creek Valley. . . . I have seen a Greater sage-grouse in this region. . . . I have plans to visit the Hot Creek Range and Hot Creek Valley in the future. The development of these oil and gas ...

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