Western Watersheds Project v. Bennett
392 F.Supp.2d 1217 (D. Idaho 2005)

  • The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) created the Jarbidge Resource Area (JRA) to manage rangeland in Idaho.
  • BLM prepared a single Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to cover the entire JRA. Then BLM proceeded to issue permits to ranchers to graze on the land.
    • They issued the grazing permits despite the fact that the EIS found that most of the JRA was in bad condition and that overgrazing was the source of the problem.
  • Environmental groups (led by WWP) sued, claiming that BLM failed to follow the requirements of Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when they issued the permits.
    • WWP argued that BLM's decision was arbitrary and capricious and therefore the courts should not give it deference.
    • BLM argued that each of its Final Grazing Decisions addressed violations and proposed mitigation measures, so it was ok to continue to issue the permits despite the fact that the areas did not meet ecological standards.
  • The Trial Court found for WWP and issued an injunction.
    • The Trial Court found that FLPMA requires BLM to maintain comprehensive Resource Management Plans. This includes the EIS. Since the EIS requires that certain actions be taken to protect the health of the grasslands, BLM has no discretion to ignore those requirements.
      • The EIS required BLM to ensure that wildlife protection takes priority over increases in grazing levels.
      • BLM wasn't even properly monitoring sensitive species in the area to determine how they were doing.
    • The Court found that FLPMA requires consistency. BLM's actions must be made consistent with the mandates of their Resource Management Plan.
      • Basically, the Court said that the small-scale plans must be made consistent with the overarching plan.
      • Compare to Ohio Forestry Association, Inc. v. Sierra Club (523 U.S. 726 (1998)), where the US Supreme Court said that the public should focus on the small decisions and didn't have a right to comment on the big overarching plans.