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Louisiana Wildlife Federation, Inc. v. York
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
761 F.2d 1044 (1985)
The Army Corps of Engineers (the corps) (defendant) granted six permits to allow private landowners to clear and convert approximately 5,200 acres of bottomland hardwood wetland to agricultural land to grow soybeans. The wetlands were denominated as special aquatic sites. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) and the corps’ guidelines treated special aquatic sites as worthy of extra protection. The corps’ guidelines prohibited the issuance of a permit when a proposal involved the discharge of dredged or fill material into an aquatic site if there was a practicable alternative that would have less of an adverse impact on the aquatic ecosystem. A practicable alternative was one that was available and capable of being done after taking cost, technology, and logistics of the overall project into consideration. Pursuant to the corps’ guidelines, alternatives to any activity involving a discharge into a special aquatic site must be considered. With respect to wetlands, the guidelines presumed practicable alternatives exist when the proposed activity does not require access to water at the site. Soybean production was a non–water dependent activity. The corps considered the applicants’ objectives and environmental maintenance. The corps selected alternatives to the original proposals and granted the applications. The corps imposed alternatives that limited the size of clearings permitted, required maintenance of buffer zones adjacent to streams crossing the land, required turnrows to be seeded and maintained in suitable grass, and mandated the application of the best management practices required by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources. Louisiana Wildlife Federation Inc. and five other environmental-protection organizations (the environmental organizations) (plaintiffs) filed suit in district court, objecting to the corps’ issuance of the permits on the grounds that the corps incorrectly interpreted practicable alternatives to mean profit-maximizing alternatives. The district court found in favor of the corps, and the environmental organizations appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Per curiam)
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