Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation
497 U.S. 871 (1990)

  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), acting under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), made some changes to the 'land-use designations' 1,250 parcels of Federal land.
    • So for example, they changed the designation of some land from being fully protected against logging, to one where logging was allowed.
  • The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) sued for an injunction under the Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. 702) claiming that the changes were "arbitrary and capricious," and therefore not allowed.
    • In order to bring the claim, NWF argued that it had standing to sue because two of its members used public lands "in the vicinity" of lands affected by the BLM's decisions.
      • One wrote, "my recreational use and aesthetic enjoyment of federal lands... have been adversely affected by...[opening the lands to mining claims and oil and gas leasing]."
  • The Trial Court dismissed the suit. NWF appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that NWF did not have standing to bring the lawsuit.
    • The Court noted that even if the two members did give standing to sue on those particular parcels, it wasn't enough to give NWF standing to challenge BLMs' decisions on the other 1,248 parcels.
  • The Appellate Court reversed. BLM appealed.
    • The Appellate Court found that the two members gave NWF standing to bring the lawsuit.
  • The US Supreme Court reversed and found for BLM.
    • The US Supreme Court found that the two members wouldn't be affected enough by the BLM decision to have standing to bring a lawsuit involving so many different administrative decisions.
    • The Court found that each of the 1,250 decisions needed to be challenged individually on a case-by-case basis, so the two members could at best only give NWF standing to challenge two decisions.
      • "The case-by-case approach that this requires is understandably frustrating to an organization such as NWF, which has as its objective across-the-board protection of our Nation's wildlife and the streams and forests that support it... But this is the traditional, and remains the normal, mode of operation of the courts. ...more sweeping actions are for the other branches."
      • NWF unsuccessfully argued that it was 'judicially efficient' to deal with it all at once, since it was essentially the same issue in every case. But that didn't sway the Court.
  • In a dissent, it was argued that two affidavits were 'illustrative', and that if NWF could get two, they could almost certainly get hundreds, and there was no reason to make them jump through hoops to establish standing. The dissent also agreed that it would be judicially efficient to deal with this in one case, as opposed to clogging the courts with 1,250 separate cases.
  • In general, there are four requirements in order to have standing to sue. The plaintiff must allege that:
    • The challenged action will cause the plaintiff some actual or threatened injury-in-fact,
    • The injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action,
    • The injury is redressable by judicial action, and
    • The injury is to an interest arguably within the zone of interests to be protected by the statute alleged to have been violated.
    • See Sierra Club v. Morton (403 U.S. 727 (1972)).