Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink
2006 WL 2348080, 63 ERC 1730 (No. CV-05-297-E-BLW) (D.Idaho 2006)

  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) made a change to their grazing regulations.
    • One change modified the definition of "interested publics." Under the old system, any group could request to be involved in BLM's decision-making process. Under the new system, if a group was on the list and received notice but didn't submit comments, they would be taken off the list.
    • A second change said that for certain types of decisions, the BLM did not have to consult with interested public groups at all.
    • BLM argued that these changes were necessary to improve the working relationship with permittees and licensees and increase administrative efficiency and effectiveness, including resolution of legal issues.
      • Basically, BLM argued that it costs money to maintain lists of interested public parties and send them notices, and it would be cheaper and more efficient to do less of that.
    • BLM also argued that there was no reason for the public to be involved in nitpicky day-to-day decisions of the BLM.
      • Most of the things BLM wanted to exclude were pretty minor actions.
  • Various environmental groups (led by WWP) sued for an injunction.
    • WWP argued that the changes violated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), which both mandated that the BLM increase public participation.
  • The Trial Court found for WWP and issued an injunction blocking the BLM rule.
    • The Trial Court found that BLM's new rule would defeat NEPA's purpose of "ensuring that the agency will have ... detailed information concerning significant environmental impacts, and ... that the public can contribute to that body of information."
    • The Court found that FLPMA requires that BLM give "the public adequate notice and an opportunity to comment upon the formulation of standards and criteria for, and to participate in, the preparation and execution of plans and programs for, and the management of, public lands."
  • In this case, BLM was trying to argue that the public should only be invited to participate in the development of the overarching planning decisions, not the miniscule day-to-day stuff. But in Ohio Forestry Association, Inc. v. Sierra Club (523 U.S. 726 (1998)), the US Supreme Court said just the opposite; the public should focus on the small decisions and didn't have a right to comment on the big overarching plans.