38 F.3d 792
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant government appealed the order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, which issued a preliminary injunction barring the Forest Service from conducting even-aged management in certain national forests. Plaintiffs, environmental groups, had brought claims under the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 1600-1614, and the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 4321-4347.
OVERVIEW: Plaintiff environmental groups brought claims under the National Forest Management Act (NFMA), 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 1600-1614, and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C.S. §§ 4321-4347. The district court issued a preliminary injunction barring the Forest Service from conducting even-aged management in certain national forests. The injunction was based on a finding of probable success on the groups' claims that the environmental assessments (EAs) violated both NEPA and NFMA. The government and the timber industry appealed. The court vacated the injunction and remanded.
The court held that the NFMA did not restrict even-aged management to exceptional circumstances.
The NFMA required the Forest Service to provide for diversity of plants and animals and to ensure viable populations under 16 U.S.C.S. § 1604(g)(3)(B) and 36 C.F.R. pt. 219.19, 219.3. The EAs considered no action, even-aged management, and uneven-aged management alternatives. The determination as to the appropriate level of protection was reasonable, and, therefore, the court deferred to the Forest Service's determination. Finally, the court concluded that the EAs would likely satisfy NEPA requirements.
OUTCOME: The court vacated the preliminary injunction, which barred the Forest Service from conducting even-aged management in certain national forests, and remanded. The court conclude that the district court erred in granting the injunction because the National Forest Management Act did not restrict even-aged management to only exceptional circumstances. Environmental assessments appeared likely to satisfy the National Environmental Policy Act.
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