Sierra Club v. Clark
756 F.2d 686 (9th Cir. 1985)

  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was responsible for the Dove Springs Canyon in the California Desert Conservation Area. Every year more and more off-road vehicles (ORVs) drove through Dove Springs, causing problems.
    • The California Desert Conservation Area was created by 43 U.S.C. 1781.
  • BLM responded by developing a management plan and writing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The final version of the plan allowed for unrestricted ORV use in more than half of Dove Springs.
  • Sierra Club sued for an injunction.
    • Sierra Club argued that BLM was required to prevent unnecessary or undue degradation of Dove Springs, and was required to maintain and conserve resources of the Desert Area under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) principles of "multiple use and sustained yield."
  • The Trial Court found for BLM. Sierra Club appealed.
  • The Appellate Court affirmed.
    • The Appellate Court looked to the BLM's regulations (43 C.F.R. 8341.2) and found that they said if BLM determined that ORVs were causing "considerable adverse effects" then BLM should close off the areas affected.
    • The Court found that Dove Springs was only a small part of the much larger Desert Area. So even if the damage in that one little area was severe, it was reasonable for BLM to conclude that the effects were not "considerable" in the context of the Desert Area as a whole.
      • That's sort of a zoning argument, where the Desert Area was partitioned up into sections, and certain sections were used in different ways.
    • The Court found that if they agreed with Sierra Club's argument, they would have no choice but to completely close the Desert Area to ORV use. Since there was an Executive Order (11644 8(b)) that ordered BLM to develop regulations regarding ORV use, it couldn't have been anyone's intent to completely ban ORV use.
      • Perhaps this was an overstatement on the Court's part. It was probably be possible to limit ORV use to mitigate adverse effects, they probably didn't have to ban them entirely.