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Gallatin Wildlife Association v. United States Forest Service

United States District Court, D. Montana, Butte Division

April 16, 2018

GALLATIN WILDLIFE ASSOCIATION, YELLOWSTONE BUFFALO FOUNDATION, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE; et al., Defendants, and HELLE LIVESTOCK, a partnership; and REBISH/KONEN LIVESTOCK LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, Defendant-Intervenors, and MONTANA WOOL GROWERS ASSOCIATION and the AMERICAN SHEEP INDUSTRY, Defendant-Intervenors

          ORDER

          Brian Morris United States District Court Judge.

         Before the Court is Plaintiff Gallatin Wildlife Association's motion for an injunction pending appeal. (Doc. 178.) The Court held a hearing on this motion on March 7, 2018. (Doc. 200.)

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiffs Gallatin Wildlife Association (“Gallatin”), WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation filed their complaint on June 11, 2015. Plaintiffs challenged the Revised Forest Plan, Allotment Management Plans, and Annual Operating Instructions for the domestic sheep allotments in the Gravelly Mountains on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (“BDNF”). (Doc. 73 at 1.) Plaintiffs alleged that the United States Forest Service (“USFS”), Leanne Marten in her official capacity as Regional Forester of the USFS, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) (collectively “Federal Defendants”) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), the National Forest Management Act (“NFMA”), and the Administrative Procedures Act (“APA”), when they authorized the Revised Forest Plan, Allotment Management Plans, and Annual Operating Instructions. (Doc. 73 at 3, 11-13.)

         The Court granted leave to intervene as Defendant-Intervenors to Helle Livestock and Rebish/Konen Livestock Limited Partnership (“Permitees”) on June 3, 2015. (Doc. 28.) The Court likewise granted leave to intervene as Defendant-Intervenors to Montana Wool Growers on August 31, 2015. (Doc. 68.)

         Gallatin moved the Court for a preliminary injunction (“Injunction I”) against the USFS on June 15, 2015. (Doc. 3.) Gallatin sought to enjoin domestic sheep grazing on the Cottonwood and Fossil-Hellroaring allotments. These allotments constitute two of the seven allotments subject to this action. The Court held a hearing on the motion on July 8, 2015. (Doc. 39.) The Court denied Gallatin's motion for Injunction I on July 10, 2015. (Doc. 43.)

         Gallatin appealed the Court's denial of the preliminary injunction to the Ninth Circuit (“Appeal I”) and requested an emergency injunction pending appeal (“Injunction II”) on July 13, 2015. (Doc. 44.) The Ninth Circuit denied Gallatin's emergency motion for Injunction II on July 17, 2015. (Doc. 49.)

         Gallatin also moved this Court for an injunction pending its appeal of the denial of the preliminary injunction on July 16, 2015 (“Injunction III”). (Doc. 47.) The Court denied the motion for Injunction III on August 4, 2015. (Doc. 61.) Gallatin moved to dismiss voluntarily Appeal I on July 30, 2015. (Doc. 59 at 1.) The Ninth Circuit granted the motion to dismiss on July 31, 2015. (Doc. 59.)

         Plaintiffs moved for summary judgment on February 25, 2016. (Doc. 116.) Plaintiffs sought judgment that the USFS had violated NEPA in three ways. Plaintiffs sought, in the alternative, permanent injunctive relief (“Injunction IV”) from domestic sheep grazing and trailing in the BDNF. Id. at 3.

         The Court granted summary judgment on two of Gallatin's three claims. (Doc. 148.) The Court determined that the USFS had not acted arbitrarily and capriciously in using “coarse filter” methodology in its Forest Plan NEPA analysis. (Doc. 148 at 15.) The Court determined that the USFS had failed to comply with NEPA, however, by failing to disclose and analyze the impacts of two Memoranda of Understanding that Federal Defendants had entered with the Permittees to allow domestic sheep to graze in the BDNF. (Doc. 148 at 26.) The Court further concluded that the USFS had violated NEPA when it failed to evaluate whether new information warranted supplemental NEPA analyses of allotment management plans. (Doc. 148 at 34-35.)

         The Court denied Plaintiffs' request for Injunction IV. (Doc. 148 at 36.) The Court instead ordered the USFS to complete expedited environmental review to resolve the deficiencies in the environmental analysis. The Court reasoned that the supplemental environmental review process would require the USFS to address the conflict between domestic sheep grazing and the reintroduction of bighorn sheep. (Doc. 148 at 37.)

         The USFS appealed the summary judgment order on August 15, 2016 (“Appeal II”). (Doc. 153.) The USFS moved to dismiss voluntarily Appeal II on November 23, 2016. (Doc. 157 at 1.) The Ninth Circuit granted that motion on November 30, 2016. (Doc. 157.)

         Gallatin appealed the summary judgment order on August 18, 2018 (“Appeal III”). (Doc. 155.) The Ninth Circuit released Appeal III from mediation on December 13, 2016, and set a briefing schedule. Gallatin Wildlife Association, et. al., v. USFS, et. al, No. 16-35665, Doc. 11 (December 13, 2016).

         Gallatin filed its opening brief on appeal on February 15, 2017. Gallatin Wildlife Association, et. al., v. USFS, et. al, No. 16-35665, Doc. 12 (February 15, 2017). Gallatin argues that the Court erred in upholding the USFS's selection of “coarse filter” methodology. Id. at 21. Gallatin further argues that the Court abused its discretion in denying its request for Injunction IV. Id. at 22.

         The parties returned to mediation. The Ninth Circuit again released Appeal III from mediation on December 27, 2017. Gallatin Wildlife Association, et. al., v. USFS, et. al, No. 16-35665, Doc. 34 (December 27, 2017). The USFS filed its answer brief on February 21, 2018. Gallatin Wildlife Association, et. al., v. USFS, et. al, No. 16-35665, Doc. 35 (December 13, 2016). Appeal III remains pending.

         The Court on January 17, 2018, ordered the parties to file a joint status report by February 9, 2018. (Doc. 177.) Gallatin filed the instant motion for injunction pending appeal (“Injunction V”) on January 18, 2018. (Doc. 178.) Plaintiffs WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project notified the Court on January 31, 2018, that they did not participate in the appeal and are not parties to this stage of the litigation. (Doc. 182.)

         LEGAL ...


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