The Forest Service did "not provide the public adequate access to information about the impact of snowmobiles on big game wildlife and habitat" when it approved a plan to allow snowmobile use on more than 2 million acres of the Beaverhead-Deer Lodge National Forest in Montana, the Ninth Circuit found in a decision issued today (WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Forest Service, 12-35434).
In addition, the service "must provide a more granular minimization analysis to fulfill the objectives of Executive Order 11644, which the Travel Management Rule was designed to implement," the court said in its decision, which is posted below. The court did affirm Senior U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on a couple of matters, most significantly that the Forest Service properly analyzed the conflicts between snowmobiles and other recreational uses.
Here's the court's conclusion:
We affirm the district court’s ruling that the EIS sufficiently analyzed the conflicts between snowmobiles and other recreational uses in the Revised Forest Plan. Further, we agree that WildEarth’s challenge to the Subpart C exemption in the [2005 Travel Management Rule] is not ripe for review. We reverse the district court’s NEPA ruling, in part, because the Forest Service did not properly disclose the information underlying its analysis of snowmobile impacts on big game wildlife in the EIS. We also reverse the district court’s ruling that the Forest Service adequately applied the minimization criteria in the TMR. We remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The parties shall bear their own costs on appeal.
The Circuit Judges on the opinion are Alex Kozinski, Richard A. Paez and Marsha S. Berzon. Paez is the author.