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Alliance for Wild Rockies v. Savage

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

November 15, 2018

ALLIANCE FOR THE WILD ROCKIES, Plaintiff,
v.
CHRIS SAVAGE, Supervisor of the Kootenai National Forest, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          Donald W. Molloy, District Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         Defendants the United States Forest Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and their official representatives (collectively "the agencies") move under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) to dissolve the injunction against the Miller West Fisher Project ("Miller Project"). (Doc. 112.) The agencies argue that dissolving the injunction is warranted because their Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement ("Final Supplemental EIS") and new Record of Decision for the Miller Project comply with this Court's remand order instructing them to address the deficiencies in the administrative record. In opposition, plaintiff Alliance for the Wild Rockies ("Alliance") argues that the agencies have failed to address a violation of Section 7 of the ESA. Alliance concedes, and the administrative record supports, that the other violations have been resolved. The motion to dissolve the injunction is granted and the injunction is dissolved.

         BACKGROUND

         This action commenced in 2009 when Alliance sought judicial review of the Miller Project, the Grizzly Project, and the Little Beaver Project on the Kootenai National Forest under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"). Alliance alleged the projects violated the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"), the National Forest Management Act ("NFMA"), and the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). On June 29, 2010, the Court granted summary judgment for Alliance on five claims applicable to the Miller Project. (Doc. 44.) Specifically, the Court held that the agencies (1) violated Section 9 of the ESA because the Miller Project would take grizzly bears beyond that permitted by the incidental take statement, (2) violated Section 7 of the ESA by concluding that unpermitted take was "not likely to adversely affect" grizzly bear and failing to substantiate their conclusion that helicopter logging was "not likely to adversely affect" grizzly bear, (3) violated NFMA by failing to show that the Miller Project was consistent with the Kootenai Forest Plan's requirement that projects be compatible with grizzly bear needs, (4) violated NEPA by failing to explain why analyzing cumulative effects at the Bear Management Unit level was proper, and (5) violated NEPA by relying on the Wakkinen and Kasworm study ("Wakkinen study") to set grizzly bear habitat standards without addressing the study's flaws.

         The Court enjoined all three projects and remanded the matter to the agencies to address the deficiencies in the administrative record. The injunctions against the Grizzly and Little Beaver Projects were dissolved after determinations that the agencies satisfied the remand order with respect to those projects. (Doc. 73; Doc. 94.) The agencies now move to dissolve the injunction against the Miller Project.

         LEGAL STANDARDS

         I. Rule 60(b)(5)

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) provides that "the court may relieve a party or its legal representative from a final judgment, order, or proceeding" when, among other things, "the judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged ... or applying it prospectively is no longer equitable." Rule 60(b)(5) codifies a court's inherent power to modify or vacate judgments when continued enforcement would be inequitable. See Bellevue Manor Assocs. v. United States, 165 F.3d 1249, 1252 (9th Cir. 1999). The party seeking relief from a judgment must establish "a significant change either in factual conditions or in law" that warrants relief. Home v. Flores, 557 U.S. 433, 447 (2009) (quoting Rufo v. Inmates of Suffolk Jail, 502 U.S. 367, 384 (1992)). "[A] court abuses its discretion 'when it refuses to modify an injunction or consent decree in light of such changes.'" Id. (quoting Agostini v. Felton, 521 U.S. 203, 215 (1997)).

         II. APA

         ESA, NEPA, and NFMA claims are reviewed under the APA, which provides that a court shall "hold unlawful and set aside agency actions, findings, and conclusions found to be . . . arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(a). An action is arbitrary and capricious "if the agency has relied on factors which Congress has not intended it to consider, entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem, offered an explanation for its decision that runs counter to the evidence before the agency, or is so implausible that it could not be ascribed to a difference in view or the product of agency expertise." Motor Vehicle Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto Ins. Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983).

         ANALYSIS

         I. ESA

         A. ...


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