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
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
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.