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
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
BLM wasn't even properly
monitoring sensitive species in the area to determine how they were
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
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.