AWR Blog

Judge’s Summary – Fleecer Timber Project, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest, Montana

Summary judgment is also granted in favor of Plaintiffs on their claims under the ESA. The Court concludes that the case must be remanded to the Wildlife Service to consider whether lynx “may be present” in the Forest because the Wildlife Service improperly applied a stricter standard to that inquiry. Until the Wildlife Service conducts its analysis under the proper standard and the parties complete any consultation that might become necessary, the Project must be enjoined. The Forest Service’s biological assessment of whether the Project “may affect” grizzly bears was also arbitrary and capricious, and a new biological assessment must be prepared.

Summary judgment is granted in favor of Plaintiffs on their claim that the Forest Plan’s and Project’s discussions of elk violate NEPA. Although the Forest Service did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in setting road density levels for the Forest, analyzing road density at the landscape and hunting unit scales, or defining secure areas for elk, the Court nevertheless finds that the Forest Service must supplement its EIS for the Forest Plan to explain or support, if possible, its decision to exclude temporary roads from the road density objectives and to correct the record to show that permitted and administrative roads are included in the objectives. The Project EA must also be supplemented with a full and fair discussion of the impact that temporary roads will have on elk during the Project’s lifetime, an important aspect of the problem given the already high road density levels in the Project area.

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