The National Park Service
(NPS) developed a Back-Country Management Plan (BMP) for Canyonlands
National Park in Utah, in response to the growing number of visitors.
The BMP was intended to
protect park resources, provide for high quality visitor experiences, and
be flexible to changing conditions.
Inside the National Park was a
dirt road that led to a creek. A lot of cars got stuck on the road,
causing damage to the park (leaking oil, etc.). NPS wrote an
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that considered alternatives, and
they eventually decided to close only a small portion of the road to
Environmental groups (led by
SUWA) sued for an injunction.
SUWA argued that NPS was
violating the National Park Service Organic Act ((16 U.S.C. §§1-18(j)) and the Canyonlands National Park
Enabling Act (16 U.S.C.
§271) because allowing continued
traffic on the road would permanently impair unique park resources.
NPS argued that they met
their requirements by writing an EIS.
A number of off-road vehicle
fans (organized as the Utah Shared Access Alliance) intervened saying
that the park should be open for their enjoyment.
The Trial Court fond for SUWA.
The Trial Court found that
allowing the vehicles to continue to use the road was inconsistent with a
clear legislative directive from Congress.
The Appellate Court remanded.
The Appellate Court applied
the two-step test of the Chevron Doctrine.
See Chevron U.S.A. Inc.
v. Natural Resources Defense Council
(467 U.S. 837 (1984)).
First, the Court looked to
see if the Statutes were ambiguous. The Court found that they were.
Overruling the Trial Court
that found the Statutes to unambiguously prevent vehicle traffic in
areas that could be permanently impaired.
Second, the Court looked to
see if NPS's interpretation of the Statute was reasonable. They found
that NPS's position was not sufficiently formal enough to determine if it
should receive Chevron deference.
The Court noted that Agency
interpretations contained in policy statements, Agency manuals, and
enforcement guidelines do not warrant Chevron deference.
See Christensen v.
Harris County (529 U.S. 576
The Court remanded to the
Trial Court to determine if the evidence demonstrates the level of
impairment prohibited by the Acts.