|Challenging Montana's Weak Wildlife Protections on State Trust Lands||
Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice. have filed a legal challenge to federal approval of a state forest management plan in Montana that threatens grizzly bears and bull trout. Both species are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
|Challenging the Flawed EPA Air Pollution Plan for "Scenic Landscape" States||Conservation and public health groups seeking to restore clear skies over some of our nation’s most scenic landscapes have filed a challenge with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver against plans approved by the Environmental Protection Agencythat allow coal-fired power plants in Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming to escape federal requirements to reduce their emissions of haze-causing pollutants. The exemptions are being challenged by HEAL Utah, National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Powder River Basin Resource Council, and Sierra Club, represented by Earthjustice.|
|Wyoming Fracking Chemical Information Disclosure||In an effort to help protect the public from exposure to toxic chemicals, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Earthworks and OMB Watch are in court to require the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission to disclose information about chemicals used during the controversial oil and gas development process known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.|
|Idaho Clean Water Protections||
Earthjustice is challenging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of weak Idaho state water pollution rules that don’t adequately protect Idaho’s cleanest rivers, lakes and streams including cold-water streams that support native trout. These are waters that are the cleanest and best suited to support fisheries and recreation.
|Otter Creek Coal Strip Mine Challenged||
Earthjustice is representing the Montana Environmental Information Center and Sierra Club in challenging a massive new coal strip mine in southeastern Montana. The lawsuit alleges that the state's decision to lease 572 million tons of coal for mining, without first examining the potentially devastating environmental consequences of the mine, violated the state's constitutional and fiduciary obligation to prevent unreasonable environmental degradation.
|Badger-Two Medicine Travel Plan Intervention||
The Badger-Two Medicine region represents 130,000 acres of National Forest land located in Montana's Rocky Mountain Front -- where the eastern slope of the Rockies meets the Great Plains -- and sandwiched between the south boundary of Glacier National Park and the Great Bear and Bob Marshall Wilderness Areas. Located amidst some of our nation's most impressive wildlands, the Badger-Two Medicine hosts numerous rare and sensitive wildlife species, including grizzly bears, wolves, lynx, wolverines, bighorn sheep, elk, and mountain goats. It also constitutes a land of special cultural importance to the Blackfeet Tribe, whose reservation it borders. The region is also almost entirely unroaded, presenting a de facto wilderness occupying a critical wildlife movement corridor along the eastern Rocky Mountain Front.
|Canada Lynx Critical Habitat Intervention||The Canada lynx is a secretive forest cat that needs big, wild landscapes to survive. In February 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acted to conserve this rare species by designating 39,000 square miles of forest land as critical habitat for the lynx pursuant to the Endangered Species Act. The critical habitat designation, which encompasses lands in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, and Maine, allows the Service to protect lynx from harmful activities within areas that are crucial for the species' survival and recovery.|
|Gray Wolves in the Northern Rockies||
Gray wolves have come perilously close to extinction in the Rocky Mountains. Only in the past decade has the wolf population rebounded from a population of less than 50 to more than 1,500 wolves today. Visitors come to Yellowstone every year to get the chance to see and hear wolves in the wild.
In September, 2008, the Bush administration moved to reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves, by asking a federal court for permission to withdraw its March 2008 decision to drop protections for wolves in the northern Rockies. On March 6, 2009, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar affirmed the decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove gray wolves from the list of threatened and endangered species in the western Great Lakes and the northern Rocky Mountain states of Idaho and Montana and parts of Washington, Oregon and Utah.
Once again, Earthjustice has turned to the courts to protect the grey wolves of the northern Rockies from attempts to deprive wolves of necessary legal and habitat protections. On June 2, 2009, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of conservation groups challenging the decision to delist the wolves. In August 2009, Earthjustice sought an emergency injunction to halt wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.
|Challenging Smoky Canyon Mine Expansion Permit||This case challenges a permit allowing expansion of the Smoky Canyon phosphate mine into roadless areas of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in southeast Idaho. The mine is already listed as a federal Superfund site due to toxic pollution of area waters from past mining activity. Expanding the mine will likely create additional pollution in southeast Idaho springs and streams.|
|Idaho Roadless Rule||
Late in the Bush administration, the U.S. Forest Service issued the Idaho Roadless Rule, a regulation establishing special rules to govern management of undeveloped roadless areas in Idaho's National Forests. Idaho has the most roadless public forest lands of any state in the lower-48 United States, with more than nine million acres. These pristine lands belong to all Americans. They provide outstanding opportunities for hunting, fishing and hiking, as well as essential habitat for rare wildlife species such as grizzly bears, gray wolves, caribou, and wolverines. However, while the 2001 Roadless Rule protected these lands, the Bush administration's Idaho Roadless Rule creates new loopholes that open the door for road construction and logging across 5.3 million acres of roadless areas -- an area more than twice the size of Yellowstone National Park -- and leaves more than 400,000 acres of roadless areas entirely unprotected.
Representing a coalition of national and regional conservation groups, Earthjustice challenged the Idaho Roadless Rule in federal district court in January 2009. This lawsuit takes aim at the rule's impacts on endangered and threatened species and its authorization for new development activities in previously protected roadless areas. Earthjustice will ask the court to invalidate the Idaho Roadless Rule and restore the 2001 Roadless Rule's protections for Idaho's irreplaceable wild forests.
|Snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park||
For eight years, the Bush administration has worked to reverse the National Park Service's 2001 decision to eliminate recreational snowmobiling -- and its adverse air, noise, and wildlife impacts -- from Yellowstone, the nation's first national park. In 2003, Earthjustice attorneys succeeded in overturning in court the Bush administration's first Yellowstone snowmobile plan, under which 950 snowmobiles would have been allowed into the park each winter day. In 2007, the Bush administration finalized a second plan authorizing 540 snowmobiles in Yellowstone each winter day -- twice the number of recent winter seasons, during which the Park Service's own noise and air quality thresholds were violated by snowmobiles. The Bush administration's plan to double the number of snowmobiles within Yellowstone contradicted the recommendation of Park Service's own biologists, who had concluded that lower vehicle numbers were necessary to protect the park's winter-stressed wildlife.
On September 15, 2008, a federal court in Washington, D.C., rejected the Bush administration's 540-snowmobile plan in a second Earthjustice lawsuit, reaffirming that "the fundamental purpose of the national park system is to conserve park resources and values." In the words of the court, the administration's decision to allow a doubling of snowmobile use within Yellowstone "clearly elevate[d] use over conservation of park resources and values" contrary to Park Service mandates. The court set aside the Bush administration's plan and directed the Park Service to develop a new regulation protective of Yellowstone National Park.
The Bush administration refused. Citing a November 2008 Wyoming court decision that left the Park Service with the authority to develop a new winter use plan, in December 2008 the Bush administration published a regulation that will allow 720 snowmobiles into the park each winter day -- 180 more than the plan invalidated only three months before by the Washington, D.C., court. Earthjustice has filed a lawsuit on behalf of five conservation groups challenging the Bush administration's eleventh-hour effort to perpetuate recreational snowmobiling within Yellowstone National Park.
|Protecting Wolverines in the Lower-48||
The wolverine, the largest terrestrial member of the weasel family, is among the rarest mammals in the lower-48 states and faces severe threats from habitat fragmentation and disturbance, trapping, and global warming. Nevertheless, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March 2008 rejected a petition to protect the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act. In so doing, the FWS cited the presence of wolverines in Canada and Alaska as a justification for refusing to protect the last remaining wolverines in the lower-48 states. This approach by FWS represented a stark departure from past Endangered Species Act listings of such species as the grizzly bear, the wolf, and the bald eagle in the lower-48 states despite the persistence of these species in Canada and Alaska.
Earthjustice, representing nine conservation groups, sued FWS in September 2008 to ensure that the wolverine is protected in the lower-48 states as Congress intended.
|Roadless Rule Defense: Affirmed At Court of Appeals, Enjoined in Another Circuit||The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of national forest land, was repealed by the Bush adminstration and replaced by a state-by-state petition process. In September 2006, Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco declared the petitions rule illegal and reinstated the Roadless Rule nationwide, except for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Two years later, Judge Brimmer reissued his moratorium declaring the Roadless Rule illegal throughout the country. But the following year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed protection for over 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development. On October 21, 2011, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Wyoming district court, upholding the Roadless Rule and vacating the prior injunction.|
|Highwood Power Plant Challenge||
Earthjustice, on behalf of local conservation groups, challenged state and federal authorizations for the Highwood Generating Station, a 250-MW coal-fired power plant proposed by a small group of eastern Montana electricity cooperatives known as the Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative. Earthjustice also challenged a $600 million federal subsidy of this power plant -- a power plant that would produce pollutants and greenhouse gases for decades to come.
This proposed plant would have been built on top of one of the last preserved campsites of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, and the National Park Service has reported that its destruction would represent "an irreparable loss to the national heritage of our country."
In February, 2009, the backers of the plant announced that they are reversing course and will instead build natural gas and wind energy facilities, and in August, 2009, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality revoked the air quality permit for the plant.
|Protecting Healthy Elk & Bison in Wyoming||
Each winter, the federal government feeds approximately 8,000 elk and 900 bison, or buffalo, on the 24,700-acre Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge in northwest Wyoming. This winter feeding program began in 1910 after growing human development in the Jackson Hole region intruded on winter ranges for native wildlife, and has continued ever since. Now, however, it has become apparent that crowding of elk and bison on winter feed lines -- like crowding of children in a kindergarten class room -- exposes the animals to a high danger of disease transmission. Already the fed elk and bison are widely afflicted with brucellosis, a disease that causes female animals to abort their calves. Even worse, crowding on the refuge feed lines exposes the elk to a high risk of contracting chronic wasting disease, the elk equivalent of "mad cow" disease, which is always fatal and which has steadily been moving northwest in Wyoming toward the Jackson Hole area over the past several years.
Despite these wildlife disease threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in 2007 to continue winter feeding of elk and bison for the foreseeable future, rather than to embark on a new plan that would seek to return these animals to their native winter range. In making this decision, the agency deferred to the wishes of local hunting outfitters, who want high elk numbers for their clients, and local ranchers, who wish to keep the elk away from forage that is now used to graze cattle. But the law governing the National Wildlife Refuge System requires the Service to maintain "healthy populations" of wildlife for the benefit of present and future generations of all Americans, not to maintain feedgrounds that perpetuate wildlife disease for the benefit of a few local interests. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in June 2008 to enforce this law.