Home » Case Summaries » 1996 » Inland Empire Pub. Lands Council v. Glickman


Inland Empire Pub. Lands Council v. Glickman



In August 1994, fires in the KootenaiNational Forest in Montana burned over 55,000 acres of forest. Under section 2001(a)(3) of the Salvage Timber Act,[1] the Forest Service planned to conduct sales of about 36 million board feet of “salvage” timber. Inland filed an action in November 1995, asking for a permanent injunction stopping any Kootenai salvage timber sales. In December 1995, the district court granted summary judgment for the defendants. Environmental groups appealed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). The Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s denial of Inland’s motion for summary judgment, the grant of the defendants’ cross-motion for summary judgment, the motion to dismiss, and the motion to strike extra-record materials.

Judicial review is limited under the Salvage Timber Act. Courts will enjoin salvage timber sales only if a review of the record shows that the decision to prepare a sale was arbitrary and capricious or otherwise not in accordance with applicable law. However, under subsection 2001 (i) of the Act, salvage timber sales are not subject to any federal environmental or natural resources law, such as NEPA or the Endangered Species Act.

Plaintiffs argued that the Kootenai sales were arbitrary and capricious because the Forest Service’s timber sale management strategy would not adequately protect a threatened species of grizzly bear listed under the Endangered Species Act. Inland cited several dangerous changes made to the plan that threatened the bears’ habitat. However, a Biological Assessment prepared by the Forest Service concluded that the sales were not likely to adversely affect the grizzly bears. USFWS concurred, and the Forest Service awarded contracts for sales in December 1995. The Ninth Circuit held that under the Salvage Timber Act, “the Forest Service had discretion to disregard entirely the effect [of the sales] on the grizzly bear. Still, both the Forest Service and USFWS recognized Inland’s concerns about the bear habitat and rationally explained its conclusion that the sales were “not likely to adversely affect the threatened grizzly bear.” Therefore, the Forest Service’s decision to conduct the timber sales could not be deemed arbitrary and capricious based on the degree of protection given to the grizzly bear.

Plaintiffs also argued that the Salvage Timber Act requires the Secretary of Agriculture (Secretary) to personally authorize every salvage timber sale because the Secretary has “sole discretion” to approve a sale under the Act. The Ninth Circuit held that the Secretary properly delegated his discretion to an Assistant Secretary, who delegated authority to the Chief of the Forest Service. Although the Salvage Timber Act does not explicitly mention delegation, the Ninth Circuit held that if Congress had intended to change the Secretary’s typical delegation procedures, it would have explicitly done so. Therefore, the Secretary did not have to personally authorize every timber sale under the Act.

The Ninth Circuit also held that the lower court properly dismissed plaintiffs’ claims that USFWS acted arbitrarily and capriciously in concurring with the sales because they lacked standing to bring this claim. plaintiffs, to establish standing, have to show that harm from the threatened action is “likely” and that injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.[2] Since the Forest Service could go ahead with the sales without USFWS’s concurrence, Inland failed to show that a favorable decision, i.e., an order setting aside the USFWS concurrence, would redress plaintiffs’ injury.

Finally, plaintiffs opposed the district court decision to strike extra record materials, including two expert opinions about grizzly bear survival and agency documents on grizzly bear management, upon which the Forest Service did not rely. The Salvage Timber Act limits judicial review to a review of the record.[3] The Ninth Circuit listed the four circumstances under which it allows the entry of extra record materials as follows: 1) when they are needed to decide “whether the agency has considered all relevant factors and has explained its decision,” 2) when the agency has relied on documents not in the record, 3) when additional materials are needed to explain complex subject matter, and 4) when plaintiffs make a showing of bad faith by the agency. The Ninth Circuit held that none of these situations applied here. The Forest Service considered all relevant factors, but did not consider plaintiffs’ materials. The record contained only those materials before the Forest Service at the time of its decision. Inland’s materials were not necessary to explain complex subject matter, and Inland made no allegation of bad faith by USFWS or the Forest Service.

[1]Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Additional Disaster Assistance, for Anti-Terrorism Initiatives, for Assistance in the Recovery from the Tragedy that Occurred at Oklahoma City, and Rescissions Act (Emergency Appropriations Act), 1995, Pub. L. No. 104-19, §§2001-02, 109 Stat. 240 (1995) (codified at 16 U.S.C. § 1611).

[2]Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561 (1992).

[3]16 U.S.C. § 2001(f)(4) (1995).

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