Conservation Law Foundation of New England, Inc. v. Secretary of the Interior
864 F.2d 954 (1st Cir. 1989)

  • The National Park Service (NPS) was responsible for administrating the Cape Cod National Seashore. NPS began to notice more and more off-road vehicle (ORV) use at the Seashore.
  • NPS commissioned a study to determine what the environmental impact of the ORV use was.
  • Based on the study, NPS issued a Plan that restricted, but didn't completely forbid ORV use at the Seashore.
    • NPS claimed that the ORV use as regulated by the Plan did not adversely affect the natural, aesthetic, or scenic values of the Seashore.
      • The Plan gave the ORV users (2% of the overall users) 16% of the Seashore to drive on.
  • Environmental groups (led by CLF) sued for an injunction.
    • CLF argued that the Executive Order that created the Seashore required NPS to close the Seashore to all ORV use because the Plan did not sufficiently prevent aesthetic and environmental damage.
  • The Trial Court found for NPS. CLF appealed.
    • The Trial Court did order NPS to amend their plan to determine if ORV use meets the definition of "appropriate public use."
    • NPS amended their plan, and further restricted ORV use on the Seashore, but CLF did not drop their appeal.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Plan was reasonable and had a rational basis, therefore it could not be overturned, even if you could argue with the exact methodology used in the Plan.
      • Administrative Agency decisions are only overturned if they are arbitrary and capricious.
    • The Court found that 7 of the Cape Cod National Seashore Act (16 U.S.C. 459(b)) provided for the development of the Seashore in certain limited circumstances where it is ecologically compatible and where it is for an "appropriate" public use.
      • It's within NPS's discretion to determine what the word "appropriate" means.