Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Lyng
882 F.2d 1417 (9th Cir. 1989)

  • Hells Canyon National Recreation Area was established by Congress "[t]o assure that the natural beauty, and historical and archeological values of this area are preserved for this and future generations, and that the recreational and ecologic values and public enjoyment of the area are thereby enhanced."
    • See Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act (HCNRA)(16 U.S.C. 460gg(a)).
  • The US Forest Service wrote an Environmental Assessment (EA) to come up with a solution to a beetle infestation in Hell's Canyon. The settled on a plan that included harvesting a lot of timber.
  • Environmental groups (led by ONRC) sued for an injunction.
    • ONRC argued that the timber harvesting plan violated National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), because the EA was insufficient and a supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) should be written.
    • ONRC argued that the plan violated the Clean Water Act (CWA) because it could result in runoff polluting streams in the area.
    • ONRC argued that no timber harvesting could go on at all because HCNRA 8(f) limited activities to those that had been going on when the Recreation Area was established.
      • And no timber harvesting was ongoing when the Recreation Area was established.
    • ONRC argued that the plan violated HCNRA 10 which requires the Forest Service to promulgate regulations governing when, where, and how certain activities, including timber harvesting, may occur.
  • The Trial Court denied the injunction. ONRC appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed in part and reversed in part.
    • The Appellate Court found that the Forest Service's actions were reasonable and therefore not a violation of NEPA or the CWA.
    • The Court found that 8(f) was written with the intent of stopping no new activities until the Forest Service wrote a Comprehensive Management Plan, it wasn't intended to forbid all new activities forever.
    • However, the Court found that HCNRA required the Forest Service to set up regulations that govern how timber sales were to be done.
      • The Court remanded back to the Trial Court to determine if the timber harvest should proceed before the regulations were written.
  • Since the courts were almost guaranteed to defer to the Forest Service's regulations, was there really much point in halting the timber harvest until they were written?
    • As it turned out, soon after this decision, the Forest Service wrote a regulation (36 C.F.R. 292.43(d)) governing timber sales at Hell's Canyon. Then the timber harvest was allowed.