Central S.D. Co-op. Grazing Dist. v. Secretary of Agriculture
266 F.3d 889 (8th Cir. 2001)

  • The US Forest Service, in compliance with the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), did an analysis of the Fort Pierre National Grassland in North Dakota and created the Nebraska Forest Plan to regulate the use of the Grassland's resources.
    • The Forest Service set the maximum number of grazing permits at about 70k Animal Unit Months (AUMs).
  • After years of research, the Forest Service decided that 70k AUMs was too much grazing to maintain the long-term health and productivity of the Grassland. They prepared a new Environmental Assessment (EA) and reduced the amount of grazing permits to 51k AUMs.
  • Ranchers, led by the Co-op sued for an injunction to stop them from lowering the number of grazing permits.
    • The Co-op argued that the Forest Service's analysis methods were wrong and that the land could support 70k AUMs.
    • The Co-op also argued that the Forest Service did not have enough data to support their conclusions.
  • The Trial Court found for the Forest Service. The Co-op appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Forest Service had done research and come to scientifically defensible conclusions. Therefore the Court found that they should apply the Chevron Doctrine and defer to Agency expertise.
      • See Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council (467 U.S. 837 (1984)).
  • Compare to Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Hodel (819 F.2d 927 (1987)). In that case, the plaintiffs were suing the Bureau of Land Management for not reducing the amount of grazing permits. The Court in that case also decided to defer to Agency judgment.