United States District Court, D. Idaho
WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT, WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, and PRAIRIE HILLS AUDUBON SOCIETY, Plaintiffs,
JANICE SCHNEIDER, Assistant Secretary of Interior; BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT; and U.S. FOREST SERVICE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
Lynn Winmill U.S. District Court Judge.
Court has before it two motions to sever and transfer brought
by the Utah intervenors and the Wyoming
intervenors. The motions are fully briefed and at
issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will deny
original complaint in this case was brought by four different
environmental groups challenging fifteen Environmental Impact
Statements (EISs) issued in 2015 that govern land covering
ten western states. The gist of plaintiffs' lawsuit was
that the BLM and Forest Service artificially minimized the
harms to sage grouse by segmenting their analysis into 15
sub-regions without conducting any range-wide evaluation -
the agencies looked at the trees without looking at the
forest, so to speak. The plaintiffs brought their claims
under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the
Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), and the
National Forest Management Act (NFMA).
filed a motion to sever and transfer arguing that, for
example, the challenge to the Utah Plan should be transferred
to Utah and the challenge to the Nevada Plan should be
transferred to Nevada. The Court denied the motion, reasoning
that “plaintiffs made overarching claims that applied
to each EIS and RMP and required a range-wide evaluation that
extended beyond the boundaries of any particular
court.” See Memorandum Decision (Dkt. No. 86).
litigation was underway, the Trump Administration came into
office and began a process to review and revise the 2015
Sage-Grouse Plans. This litigation was put on hold pending
that review. In 2017 that review was completed, and as a
result, WWP alleges, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke directed
agencies to relax restrictions on oil and gas development in
sage grouse habitat. The BLM responded by issuing amendments
to the Sage Grouse Plans (referred to as the 2019
Amendments). Plaintiffs supplemented their complaint to
challenge the BLM's 2019 Amendments, alleging that the
agency - acting at the direction of the Trump Administration
- again made common errors across numerous Plans, including
(1) failing to take a range-wide analysis, (2) failing to
evaluate climate change impacts, and (3) generally removing
protections for the sage grouse.
Utah and Wyoming intervenors have filed a motion to transfer,
arguing that the circumstances have changed since the Court
denied the BLM's motion discussed above. The intervenors
argue that the interests of justice and the interests of
local concerns justify transferring, for example, the Utah
Plan challenges to Utah and the Wyoming Plan challenges to
Wyoming. The intervenors argue that the challenges in this
case are Plan-specific and will be unique to each State.
argument, however, ignores plaintiffs' complaint.
Plaintiffs allege that the challenged Plans suffer from
common failings that did not result entirely from errors of
local Field Offices but rather were heavily influenced by
directions from the Trump Administration and the Interior
Secretary. Transferring these cases to various States would
require plaintiffs to make duplicative arguments and courts
to render duplicative - and perhaps conflicting - decisions.
The Court cannot agree with intervenors that circumstances
have changed since the Court denied the earlier motion to
sever and transfer. The Court will not repeat the analysis of
that decision but will simply confirm its reasoning and once
again deny these motions.
accordance with the Memorandum Decision above, NOW THEREFORE
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that the motion to sever and transfer
(docket no. 144) and the motion to sever and transfer (docket
no. 147) are DENIED.
 The first motion was filed by the
State of Utah, the Governor of Utah, the Utah Schools, and
the State of Wyoming. For ease of reference, the Court will
refer to this motion as having been filed by the Utah
intervenors. The second motion was filed by the Wyoming Stock
Growers Association, the Petroleum Association of Wyoming,
and Western Energy Alliance. For ease of reference, the ...