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Public Lands for the People, Inc. v. United States Department of Agriculture

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
697 F.3d 1192 (2012)


After considering and weighing many environmental and use factors, in 2008, the United States Forest Service (Forest Service), a division of the Department of Agriculture (defendant), issued a decision limiting motor-vehicle use in Eldorado National Forest (ENF). The Forest Service took roads that had been public roads open to motor-vehicle use, and it reclassified them as non-public roads closed to motor-vehicle traffic. This meant miners would now have to get permission to use motor vehicles on these roads where, previously, they did not need to get permission. Public Lands for the People, Inc. was an association of miners (Miners) (plaintiffs) who wanted to use motor vehicles to pursue mining activities in the ENF. The Miners claimed that the Forest Service did not have the authority to restrict their motor vehicle use. The Miners also asserted that the Forest Service acted arbitrarily and capriciously by requiring permission to enter roads that were previously open. The trial court found that the Forest Service: (1) had the authority to impose the restrictions and (2) reasonably interpreted the regulations when it determined the definition of a public road. The Miners appealed, claiming they had a regulatory right to use motor vehicles on public roads, and the Forest Service’s 2008 decision did not make the newly closed roads non-public.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (McKeown, J.)

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