Ecology Center, Inc. v. Austin
430 F.3d 1057 (9th Cir. 2005)
After a forest fire at the
Lolo National Forest, the US Forest Service prepared an Environmental
Impact Statement (EIS) to determine how to recover. The EIS recommended
the commercial thinning of small diameter trees, prescribed controlled
burning in old-growth forest stands, and salvage logging of dead trees.
Environmental Groups (led by
Ecology Center) sued for an injunction.
Ecology Center argued that
the EIS violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Even though the Forest
Service had written an EIS, Ecology Center argued that it was insufficient
because it didn't go into detail about the basis for the Forest
Service's decisions, it just made general statements without any facts
or scientific analysis to back them up.
The Trial Court found for the
Forest Service. Ecology Center appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court found
that, in general, the courts should defer to the judgment of Agency
experts, unless it can be shown that their conclusions are arbitrary
See Chevron U.S.A. Inc.
v. Natural Resources Defense Council
(467 U.S. 837 (1984)).
The Court looked at the
Forest Service EIS and found that they had not performed any on the
ground analysis to test to see if their theories for how to recover from
forest fires were effective.
The Court likened this to
marketing a drug without doing a clinical trial to see if the drug was
safe and effective.
The Court found that since
the Forest Service failed to provide a factual basis for its analysis and
failed to adequately explain the basis of its decision, their plan was arbitrary
The Court remanded back to
the Forest Service to try again and write an EIS that contained a better
Compare to Sierra Club v.
Marita (46 F.3d 606 (1995)). In that
case the Court said that they would not question an Agency's decision to
use one scientific method over another one, but in this case the Court
said that the Agency must at least use some kind of scientific methodology
in their decision-making process.