Okanogan Highlands Alliance v. Williams

236 F.3d 468 (2000)

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Okanogan Highlands Alliance v. Williams

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
236 F.3d 468 (2000)

Facts

The Battle Mountain Gold Company (company) (defendant) sought to operate a gold mine on Buckhorn Mountain. The company submitted a project proposal to the United States Forest Service (the service) (defendant) for approval of its operations plan for the mine. The service prepared an environmental-impact statement for the project. In the environmental-impact statement, the service discussed seven project alternatives. Alternative B involved surface mining and considerable disturbance to the surface land around the mining operation. Alternative C involved the extraction of gold by underground methods only and was deemed by the service as the most environmentally preferable alternative. In its final decision, the service ultimately approved alternative B. The service explained that it did not select alternative C because that alternative would have had a substantial impact on the economics of the mine and reduced the amount of gold recovered. Further, the service reasoned that the environmental effects of alternative B on the surface land could be effectively addressed by reclamation, mitigation, and compensation requirements. The Okanogan Highlands Alliance (Okanogan) and the Colville Reservation (Colville) (plaintiffs) appealed the service’s selection of alternative B to the forest service’s regional forester, Robert Williams (defendant). The appeal was denied, and Okanogan and Colville filed suit in the district court. Okanogan and Colville argued that the service violated its duty under the Organic Act to minimize adverse environmental impacts of mining operations on national-forest surface resources. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the service, the regional forester, and the company. Okanogan and Colville appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Graber, J.)

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