Kleissler v. United States Forest Service
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
183 F.3d 196 (1999)
The United States Forest Service (service) (defendant) managed the Allegheny National Forest (forest). The service studied and approved two timber-cutting projects in the forest. The service’s study of the projects included environmental assessments, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). After the environmental assessments were final, the service’s district ranger issued notices of decision and Findings of No Significant Impact (FONSIs) for both projects. Issuance of the FONSIs meant that the preparation of a more-detailed environmental-impact statement was not required under NEPA for either project. Kleissler (plaintiff) filed administrative appeals of the decisions regarding both projects pursuant to the process provided for by the United States Department of Agriculture Reorganization Act (agriculture act). The agriculture act required that a challenger to an agency decision (1) identify specific portions of the decision to which the challenger objected, (2) state the reasons for the objection in terms of the specific laws or regulations violated, and (3) identify the specific changes to the decision sought. Kleissler raised many claims in his objections and challenges to both projects under various statutes. The service’s regional forester, who had authority over appeals of decisions regarding the forest, affirmed the district ranger’s decisions. Subsequently, Kleissler filed a complaint in the district court, seeking to enjoin the two projects. However, Kleissler’s complaint differed from the objections and challenges that Kleissler raised during the administrative appeals. The claims that Kleissler made in his federal complaint were similar to the claims he made during the administrative appeals, but they were not the same. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the service. The district court held that Kleissler had failed to exhaust his administrative remedies because the claims raised in his administrative appeals did not provide sufficient notice for the service to consider and decide the claims that Kleissler raised in his federal complaint. Kleissler appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Nygaard, J.)
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