National Parks and Conservation Association v. Stanton
54 F.Supp.2d 7 (D.D.C. 1999)
Under a cooperative agreement,
the National Park Service (NPS) delegated its authority to manage the
Niobrara National Scenic River to a local council.
The NPS had virtually no
control over the council, and under the plan the council would have
complete responsibility for decisions about the river.
The only power NPS retained
was that they could cancel the cooperative agreement with 60-day notice.
The council included county
commissioners, private landowners, business representatives, and a
representative from the NPS and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).
The NPCA sued for an
The NPCA argued that it was
unconstitutional for NPS to delegate their authority in such a manner.
The Trial Court found for the
NPCA and granted the injunction.
The Trial Court looked to 16
U.S.C. §1274(1)(117), which
specifically delegates administration of the Niobrara to the Department
of the Interior (DOI).
NPS is a part of DOI.
The Court also looked to 16
U.S.C. §1281(c), which outlines the
duties of the DOI, and found that it explicitly gives DOI the sole
responsibility for administering lands in the National Scenic River
The Court found nothing in
statutory law that allowed the DOI to delegate authority to the council.
The Court found that the
delegation was unlawful because NPS retains no oversight over the
council, no final reviewing authority over the council's actions or
inactions, and the councils' dominant private local interests are likely
to conflict with the national environmental interests that NPS is
statutorily mandated to represent.
The Court found that simply
retaining the ability to cancel the agreement was not sufficient
NPS argued that 16 U.S.C.
§1281(e) and §1282(b)(1) encouraged NPS to cooperate with local
governments. However the Court found that "entering into a
cooperative agreement" should not be read to imply that NPS could
delegate their entire authority.