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Sierra Club v. Martin

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
168 F. 3d 1 (1999)


The United States Forest Service (USFS) (defendant) proposed to sell timber rights for timber projects located within the Chattahoochee and Oconee National Forests (forests). The timber projects involved road construction and water discharges that would threaten wildlife habitat. The Sierra Club (Sierra) (plaintiff) filed suit against the USFS in district court, claiming that the USFS had not collected population data for proposed, endangered, threatened, or sensitive (PETS) plant and animal species, as required by USFS regulations and a forest plan. The district court granted summary judgment to the USFS. Sierra appealed, arguing that the USFS had violated the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1600 et seq., and the forest plan by failing to gather population data on PETS species prior to making a decision affecting the forests. Sierra also claimed that the timber sales violated NFMA regulations, 36 C.F.R. §§ 219.26 and 219.19, because the USFS had failed to collect population data for either management-indicator species (MIS) or all affected species. Section 219.26 required the USFS to use population data to assess the forest plan’s effects on species diversity, while § 219.19 required the USFS to monitor MIS populations. The USFS argued that habitat information other than population data was adequate to meet the forest plan’s requirements, that USFS regulations did not require the USFS to keep data on PETS species, and that the timber projects would not significantly impact PETS species’ diversity or viability. The USFS also argued that, when read together, §§ 219.26 and 219.19 required the USFS to collect data only for MIS species. The USFS interpreted § 219.26 to mean that the USFS was not required to collect data for MIS species.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Barkett, J.)

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