Written by: Amie Alexander, JD/MPS Candidate, William H. Bowen School of Law
The Native Ecosystem Council and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies filed suit on March 23, 2018 against the Bureau of Land Management of the Department of the Interior in the United States District Court for the District of Montana. You can read the complaint in its entirety here.
Background on this Action
This suit is filed under the citizen suit provision of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) requesting a judicial review of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM)’s actions relating to the Iron Mask Planning Area (Project) within the Elkhorns Cooperative Management Area (ECMA). Plaintiffs claim that recent decisions by the BLM authorizing livestock grazing, sagebrush removal, conifer reduction, and prescribed burning within the ECMA are not in accordance with the law. Specifically, plaintiffs allege these actions violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
The BLM released a draft Environmental Assessment for the Project on June 6, 2014. The Project is intended to address management issues regarding land acquisition, travel planning, a forage reserve, and other grazing authorization. Plaintiffs provided comments on this draft on July 18, 2014. A Final Environmental Assessment was produced on July 1, 2015. On the same day, the BLM signed the Decision Record authorizing the Project and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact Statement. This Finding of No Significant Impact Statement concluded that an Environmental Impact Statement was not required because no significant short or long-term impacts were identified for the Project. Plaintiffs administratively appealed the Decision Record on August 11, 2015; the appeal was rejected on August 24, 2015.
Claims for Relief
Plaintiffs first allege the Iron Mask Decision violates NEPA and the APA by (1) failing to examine the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the Iron Mask Decision on wildlife; (2) failing to take a “hard look” at direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of a proposed regulation; and (3) failing to analyze foreseeable adverse direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts on wildlife. Plaintiffs argue the BLM’s failure to consider these impacts was arbitrary and capricious, and unlawful in violation of NEPA and the APA.
Plaintiffs also allege the Iron Mask Decision violates FLPMA by failing to satisfy procedural and substantive statutory requirements upon BLM’s management of the public lands at issue in the decision. Finally, plaintiffs claim the Iron Mask Environmental Assessment does not analyze a reasonable range of alternatives or apply the best available science to ensure wildlife viability, in violation of NEPA and the APA.
You can read the complaint in its entirety here.