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National Audubon Society v. Hoffman

132 F.3d 7 (1997)

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National Audubon Society v. Hoffman

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

132 F.3d 7 (1997)

Facts

The Forest Service (defendant) issued an environmental assessment according to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for a logging project in Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest that was part of a larger National Forest Plan. The logging project consisted of a timber management program, improvement of two existing roads, and improving conditions for all-terrain vehicles (ATV). It was likely that unauthorized ATV use would increase with the improvements to the roads. The Forest Service did not quantify the amount of unauthorized traffic that would occur as a result of the road improvement. The Forest Service proposed ways to mitigate the logging project’s potential negative effects on black bears in the area of the project but made a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) on the human environment in the area. To decrease the adverse impact on black bears, the Forest Service proposed a mitigation measure of destroying a part of the road to create an apparent end that deters unauthorized users. The Forest Service did not conduct a study of the proposed mitigation measure’s likely effects, propose monitoring to determine effectiveness, or consider alternatives to the proposed mitigation measure. The National Audubon Society and other environmental groups (the environmental groups) (plaintiffs) filed suit against the Forest Service, alleging that the Forest Service violated NEPA by failing to consider the negative effect of the project on black bears in state-designated critical bear habitats and the effect on migratory bird populations. The district court found that the Forest Service’s FONSI violated NEPA because the Forest Service failed to take a hard look at the relevant effects of the proposed action and that had the Forest Service taken a hard look, it would have determined that the project could result in a significant impact and require an environmental-impact statement (EIS).

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Cardamone, J.)

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