Saturday, May 4, 2013

Thomas v. Peterson case brief

Thomas v. Peterson case brief
753 F.2d 754 (9th Cir. 1985)

CASE SYNOPSIS: Plaintiff organizations sought review of a decision from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho which granted summary judgment in favor of defendant, the U.S. Forest Service, in an action involving the construction of a road to access timber pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 1600-14, and the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 1531-43.

FACTS: Plaintiff organizations sought to prohibit defendant, the U.S. Forest Service, from constructing a road designed to facilitate timber extraction. The district court's decision on the National Environmental Policy Act claim was reversed. Because the road construction and the timber sales were "connected actions" under 40 C.F.R. § 1508.25(a)(1) (1984) and "cumulative actions," defendant was required to prepare an environmental impact statement that analyzed the combined impacts of the road and the timber sales. The court affirmed the district court's holding that the cost of the road did not have to be exceeded by the timber accessed because other benefits were conferred by the road. The district court's holding that defendant's failure to make an assessment as to the impact of the project on the endangered gray wolf was a mere technical violation was reversed. The Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C.S. §§ 1531-43, required defendant to perform a biological assessment as to the project's impact on the gray wolf once it was aware that this species was in the area. Thus, an injunction was to be issued to prohibit the building of the road until such an assessment was performed.

CONCLUSION: The grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant, the U.S. Forest Service, was affirmed as to plaintiff organizations' National Forest Management Act claim because the value of the timber extracted did not have to exceed the cost of the road. The decision was reversed as to plaintiff's other claims because one environmental impact statement was required for "connected actions," and an endangered species biological assessment was required.

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