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Biodiversity Associates v. Cables

357 F.3d 1152 (2004)

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Biodiversity Associates v. Cables

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

357 F.3d 1152 (2004)

Facts

The United States Congress delegated managerial authority over the Black Hills National Forest to the United States Forest Service (defendant). In 1997, the forest service approved a revised plan for administration of the Black Hills National Forest. As part of the revised plan, the Beaver Park Roadless Area was to be opened for timber sales. The Biodiversity Conservation Alliance (the alliance) (plaintiff) objected to a planned timber sale in the Beaver Park area. Environmental groups ultimately sued the forest service, which led to the execution of a settlement agreement. The settlement agreement provided that the forest service would not allow any tree cutting in the Beaver Park area until the forest service approved a new management plan for the land and resources in Black Hills National Forest. The process for approving a new plan dragged on. Meanwhile, mountain pine beetles were proliferating within the Black Hill National Forest. In 1999, the beetles had killed 15,000 trees, but, in 2002, the beetles killed about 114,000 trees. Cables (defendant), who was the regional forester for Black Hills National Forest, and other forest managers sought to obtain permission to remove trees from the Beaver Park area. The forest service sought to obtain consent from the environmental groups to modify the settlement agreement to allow for some direly needed tree removal, but the environmental groups refused. After this refusal, the forest service turned to Congress for a solution. In August 2002, Congress passed an appropriations bill that contained a legislative rider (i.e., an attachment to a legislative bill unrelated to the main point of the bill) pertaining to forest management in the Black Hills National Forest. The rider specified land-management techniques, overrode environmental laws and administrative-review requirements, explicitly superseded the settlement agreement between the environmental groups and the forest service, and precluded judicial review of actions mandated by rider. The alliance filed a motion in the federal district court, seeking an order that the settlement agreement was still valid and that the rider unconstitutionally intruded on the powers of the executive and judicial branches. The alliance argued that the rider’s specificity took the rider beyond the domain of Congress’s legislative powers and violated the separation-of-powers doctrine. The district court denied the alliance’s motion.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McConnell, J.)

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