Saturday, May 4, 2013

Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance case brief

Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance case brief
542 U.S. 55 (2004)

CASE SYNOPSIS: Respondent environmental organizations sued petitioner United States Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and others, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief for the BLM's failure to act to protect public lands from damage caused by off-road vehicle (ORV) use. The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the BLM could be compelled under 5 U.S.C.S. § 706(1) to comply with its nonimpairment obligation. Certiorari was granted.

FACTS: A claim under 5 U.S.C.S. § 706(1) could proceed only where a plaintiff asserted that an agency failed to take a discrete agency action that it was required to take. In this case, the claim that the BLM violated its 43 U.S.C.S. § 1782(c) mandate to continue to manage wilderness study areas so as not to impair the suitability of such areas for preservation as wilderness was not subject to review under § 706(1) because it left the BLM a great deal of discretion in deciding how to achieve it. Thus, the statute did not mandate the total exclusion of ORV use with the clarity necessary to support judicial action. Moreover, the land use plan statements that the BLM would conduct use supervision and monitoring in designated areas were not legally binding commitments enforceable under § 706(1). Finally, the increased ORV use did not require a hard look under 42 U.S.C.S. § 4332 because the major federal action was the approval of the land use plan, which was completed when the plan was approved. Thus, there was no ongoing major federal action that required supplementation of the environmental impact statement.

CONCLUSION: The judgment was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.

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