Oregon Natural Desert Ass'n v. Bureau of Land Management

531 F.3d 1114 (2008)

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Oregon Natural Desert Ass'n v. Bureau of Land Management

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
531 F.3d 1114 (2008)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (defendant) was authorized under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) to develop and maintain public lands. The FLPMA incorporated the Wilderness Act, which enumerated specific wilderness characteristics of land. The BLM developed a land-use plan covering approximately four-and-a-half million acres of rugged, remote land in southeastern Oregon. The Southeastern 8566 Oregon Management Plan (the plan) was intended to guide management of the land for the next 20 years. Approvals of resource-management plans were considered major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, so they implicated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA). Under NEPA, resource-management plans required the preparation of an environmental-impact statement (EIS) and the agency to consider every significant aspect of the environmental impact of the proposed plan. BLM prepared a draft plan and an accompanying EIS. The Oregon Natural Desert Association (ONDA) (plaintiff) provided comments on the draft and suggested the BLM focus more on land with wilderness characteristics. The BLM responded that it would not re-inventory wilderness areas. The EIS did not consider the effects of the plan on areas with wilderness characteristics not already designated as wilderness study areas (WSAs). ONDA filed a protest with the BLM, and after the protest was denied, ONDA conducted its survey of land with wilderness characteristics. ONDA concluded that more than 1.3 million acres of land demonstrated wilderness characteristics described in the FLPMA that were not considered WSAs. BLM did not alter the plan based on ONDA’s survey. ONDA filed a complaint in district court alleging the BLM violated NEPA by failing to take a hard look at the environmental consequences of the proposed action by not including current conditions of non-WSA areas. The district court found that the BLM was not required to perform a wilderness inventory and could not be faulted for not analyzing non-WSA lands. ONDA appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Berzon, J.)

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