Inland Empire Public Lands Council v. United States Forest Service
88 F.3d 754 (9th Cir. 1996)
The US Forest Service proposed
some timber sales in a National Forest in Montana. Environmental groups
(led by IEPLC) sued for an injunction.
IEPLC argued that the sales
would have a negative impact on a number of animal species in the forest.
IEPLC argued that this was a
violation of the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
Even though the Forest
Service had performed an assessment, IEPLC argued that it was
insufficient because the scientific methods used were flawed.
The Trial Court found for the
Forest Service. IEPLC appealed.
The Trial Court found that
there was simply a disagreement over the choice of scientific
The Court found that based
on Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council (467 U.S. 837 (1984)) they should defer to
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court noted
that Forest Service regulations (36 C.F.R. §219.19) required the Forest Service to perform a
minimum level of population viability analysis.
The Court found that the
science the Forest Service used might be arguable, but it was not arbitrary
and capricious, and so the courts
should defer to the Forest Service's judgment.
This case is another example
of how it is very difficult to overturn an Agency decision by arguing that
they are using a bad scientific method as opposed to a good one. As long
as the Agency has a scientific basis for their decision, the courts will
almost always defer to their judgment.
For another example, see Sierra
Club v. Marita (46 F.3d 606 (1995)).
But, the Agency must have at
least some factual basis for their
decision, they can't just make a decision based on nothing at all.
See Ecology Center, Inc.
v. Austin (430 F.3d 1057 (2005)).