Forest Guardians v. United States Forest Service
329 F.3d 1089 (9th Cir. 2003)

  • Pursuant to the Multiple-Use Sustained-Yield Act of 1960, (16 U.S.C. 528-531) (MUSYA), the US Forest Service issued a Forest Plan for the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.
    • The Forest Plan, provided for grazing of livestock on certain portions (allotments) of forest land.
  • The Forest Service developed two Allotment Management Plans (AMPs) for six grazing allotments in the forest.
    • The purpose of the two AMPs was to determine whether livestock grazing should be authorized, and if so, what the appropriate management strategy would be.
      • The Forest Service conceded that there was too much grazing by both cattle and wild animals (deer, elk, etc.).
    • The Forest Service concluded that the grazing permits had to be revised to comply with the Forest Plan and the applicable environmental laws.
  • The Forest Service canceled existing permits and issued new permits that provided for a gradual three-year reduction of the number of cattle allowed to graze, and calculated the number of permits on the basis that 100% of the available grass would be eaten by cattle (assuming none would be eaten by wild animals).
    • It also allowed the Forest Service to 'experiment' with different strategies by issuing temporary permits.
  • Environmental groups (led by the Forest Guardians) sued for an injunction.
    • The Guardians argued that the new system violated the consistency provision of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), because the Forest Plan requires balancing grazing capacity with use and environmental concerns. This plan wasn't balanced, it gave 100% to the cattle ranchers and left nothing for the wild animals.
  • The Trial Court found for the Forest Service. The Guardians appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court found that Agency decisions should only be overturned if they are arbitrary and capricious.
    • The Court looked at the Forest Service's decisions-making process and found that the Forest Service's plan was reasonable, and therefore not arbitrary and capricious.