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Sierra Club v. Lyng (II)

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
663 F.Supp. 556 (1987)


Facts

The United States Forest Service (USFS) enacted the Southern Pine Beetle (pine beetle) program (program) under the direction of the U.S. secretary of agriculture (secretary) (defendant) in various southern states. The program’s purpose was to protect commercial-timber interests and private property by controlling pine beetle infestations in wilderness areas. The program involved the extensive cutting and chemical spraying of pine trees within wilderness areas. In Sierra Club v. Lyng (I), 662 F.Supp. 40 (D.C. Cir. 1987), the Sierra Club (plaintiff) and the Wilderness Society (plaintiff) challenged the program on the basis that it was unnecessary and ineffective. The district court found that the program violated the Wilderness Act (Act), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1331-36, because the secretary lacked the authority to take actions within wilderness areas to benefit private interests and had failed to demonstrate that the program was necessary to control pine beetles. The district court delayed a final ruling, pending the USFS’s completion of environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-47. The USFS subsequently published an environmental impact statement (EIS) that narrowed the program’s scope by, among other things, (1) using spot-control techniques that confined cutting to the edges of wilderness areas, (2) authorizing cutting only after a detailed site-specific analysis, and (3) requiring adjacent landowners to take reasonable steps to control pine-beetle infestations on their property prior to initiating control efforts in wilderness areas. The plaintiffs claimed that the revised program was insufficient because the secretary had not shown that the program was “necessary” under § 4(d)(1) of the Act, and that “necessary” meant “essential.” Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that the secretary had not proven the program’s necessity by scientific evidence, that past control-method studies were scientifically unsophisticated, and that area-wide control was required because pine beetles traveled between wilderness and non-wilderness areas. Both parties moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Gesell, J.)

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