31 ELR 20309 | Environmental Law Reporter | copyright © 2000 | All rights reserved

Okanogan Highlands Alliance v. Williams

Nos. 99-35537, 99-35538 (236 F.3d 468) (9th Cir. December 29, 2000)

ELR Digest

The court holds that the U.S. Forest Service's (the Service's) environmental impact statement (EIS) and record of decision (ROD) for a mining operation on and around Buckhorn Mountain in California did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act, the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), or Native American trust obligations. The court first holds that neither the Regional Forester nor the district court violated the APA by relying on post-ROD documents. The court next holds that the EIS contains a thorough discussion of the measures necessary to mitigate the potential adverse environmental effects of the project's mine-pit lake, the water overflow from the lake, and waste-rock dumps. Although the mitigating measures are described in general terms and rely on general processes rather than specific substantive requirements, the actual adverse effects are uncertain and the EIS considered extensively the potential effects and mitigation processes. The court next holds that the Service did not defer to state agencies its responsibility for reviewing mitigation measures. The court further holds that the Service did not fail to select the most environmentally preferable, but still profitable, project alternative in violation of the Organic Act. The court finally holds that the Service did not violate trust obligations owed to Native American tribe members who will be unable to hunt and fish on approximately 2,000 acres of their territory during the life of the mining project. The EIS and ROD contained numerous acknowledgments of the tribe's reserved rights.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (21 pp., ELR Order No. L-311).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Edmund J. Goodman
Oregon Legal Services Corporation
812 SW Washington St., Ste. 700, Portland OR 97205
(503) 223-9483

Counsel for Defendants
Ethan G. Shenkman
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

[31 ELR 20310]


31 ELR 20309 | Environmental Law Reporter | copyright © 2000 | All rights reserved