National Wildlife Federation v. Bureau of Land Management
(The Comb Wash Case)
140 IBLA 85 (1997)
The Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) created a Resource Area in Utah (which included a river called Comb
Wash). BLM developed a Resource Management Plan (RMP) and an Environmental
Impact Statement to determine how best to use the area.
The EIS had a number of
deficiencies. It did not provide detailed information needed to
determine if grazing in the area was environmentally harmful, it did not
contain an analysis of the grazing plan being implemented, it did not
contain information on the current condition of the area, and it lacked
discussion on the relative values of resources in the area or provide a
balancing of the harms and benefits of grazing.
BLM issued a number of grazing
permits. Environmental groups (led by NWF) sued for an injunction.
NWF argued that BLM failed
to follow the requirements of Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when they issued the permits.
NWF argued that BLM's
decision was arbitrary and capricious and therefore the courts should not
give it deference.
The Administrative Law Judge
granted the injunction. BLM appealed.
BLM admitted that they had
made some mix-ups and thought that a binding decision to graze had
already been made, therefore the EIS did not require them to consider
The Interior Board of Land
Appeals (IBLA) affirmed.
IBLA found that FLPMA's multiple use mandate requires that BLM
balance competing resource values to ensure that public lands are managed
in the manner "that will best meet the present and future needs of
the American people."
IBLA found that since BLM
had failed to engage in any reasoned or informed decision-making process
their actions were arbitrary and capricious.
IBLA remanded back to BLM to
actually do a competent EIS and RMP.