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 injunction.
    • 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 system.
      • 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 oversight.
    • 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.