Niobrara River Ranch, L.L.C. v. Huber
United States District Court for the District of Nebraska
277 F. Supp. 2d 1020 (2003)
Pursuant to the National Wildlife Refuge System Act (the refuge act), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (the service) developed a comprehensive conservation plan (the plan) for the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in 1999. The plan cited a dramatic increase in recreational usage of the Niobrara River, as well as evidence of the negative effects of high recreational use on other, similar wildlife refuges. The plan placed a temporary moratorium on the issuance of special-use permits to new operators and capped total river usage by existing operators at the 1998 levels. The plan also required preparation of a river-management plan based on peer-reviewed scientific research within two years, which would then define acceptable use levels and ultimately allow the moratorium to be lifted. By 2003, the river-management plan was not complete, but it was scheduled to be in place for the 2004 season. In 2003 the Niobrara River Ranch (the ranch) (plaintiff) filed an application for a special-use permit to conduct daily watercraft launches, arguing that the moratorium was not supported by scientific evidence and that the permit denial was arbitrary and capricious because usage had decreased enough that the ranch’s use would not result in total usage exceeding 1998 levels. Citing the moratorium and limits on river usage, the refuge manager (defendant) denied the application. The ranch appealed the denial to the service’s state supervisor, and the appeal was denied. The ranch then appealed to the service’s regional director and was denied before filing suit in federal district court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Kopf, C.J.)
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