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Our Cases

Earthjustice attorneys represent public-interest clients concerned about threats to the environment and hold accountable those who jeopardize the health of our planet. Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters, we provide expert legal support free of charge to groups large and small. Several of the most important legal battles for this year can be found at the 2014 Legal Docket.

Our complete legal docket includes about 300 active cases. Learn about some of our recent and historical cases:

Fighting for Cleaner Air in Utah’s Uinta Basin

A coalition of public health and conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, is pressing their case against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the agency’s failure to protect the Uinta Basin of northeast Utah from dangerously high levels of smog pollution. Wintertime smog in the basin in recent years rivaling that usually found in Los Angeles and Houston has resulted from air pollution generated by booming oil and gas operations and other industrial activity.

Protecting the Deep Creek WSA

The Deep Creek Mountains, located west of Salt Lake City and just east of the Nevada border, are western Utah’s highest mountains, an isolated “island” overlooking the Great Salt Lake Desert dominated by 12,087-foot Ibapah Peak. This unique range rises 7,800 feet above the surrounding desert lands and is known for its rich biodiversity, perennial streams, and opportunities for solitude. Nearly 70,000-acres in the heart of the range have been designated as the Deep Creek Mountains Wilderness Study Area and are managed for their wilderness qualities. Recreational activities include hunting, wildlife viewing and hiking.

Challenging Unlawful Approval of Motorized Routes in Pike and San Isabel National Forests

Earthjustice, representing recreation and conservation groups, have moved to protect wildlife, air and water quality and opportunities for quiet recreation in Colorado in a legal challenge to the U.S. Forest Service’s official okay of hundreds of miles of routes for motorized vehicle use on the Pike and San Isabel National Forests.

Stopping Industrialization of the Thompson Divide

Earthjustice, representing Wilderness Workshop, has filed an administrative appeal seeking reversal of the April 9, 2013, Colorado Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision that extended the lives of 25 oil and gas leases set to expire in 2013. These leases, which BLM admits were illegally sold and which have sat unused for ten years, are located in the heart of the Thompson Divide, a prized refuge of public lands in the White River National Forest.

Coal Mines Clouding America's Air A coalition of groups—including WildEarth Guardians, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, and Environmental Integrity Project represented by Earthjustice—have filed suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its failure to protect public health and the environment from air pollution from coal mines in the United States.
Protecting Colorado's Mountain Backcountry Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, are working to halt Arch Coal’s plans to bulldoze, road, and drill the forests next to Colorado’s iconic West Elk Wilderness Area as part the company’s plans to expand dirty energy development on public lands.
Grand Canyon Uranium Mining

Earthjustice has intervened to defend the U.S. Department of the Interior’s 20-year ban on new uranium mining claims across 1 million acres of public lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon.

San Pedro River Water Use Challenge Earthjustice represented the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society in challenging the lawfulness of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion, which concluded that continued, even increased, water withdrawals by the Army for Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army base near Sierra Vista, Arizona, will not unduly impact the San Pedro River. In May 2011, Earthjustice won this case in the District of Arizona.
Utah Resource Management Plans and Lease Sale Challenge

In late 2008, the Bush administration attempted to cement its pro-development philosophy in the BLM's land management plans applicable to Utah's public lands for decades to come. These public lands include areas adjacent to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Dinosaur National Monument, and Ninemile and Desolation Canyons. The development authorized under these plans will have severe impacts on wildlife, rivers and streams, cultural resources, and air quality in some of Utah's most spectacular places.

On behalf of several conservation groups, Earthjustice filed suit in December 2008. In January 2009, Earthjustice obtained a temporary restraining order prohibiting BLM from finalizing the Utah leases until after the change in administrations in Washington. Once Obama took office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced that BLM would not finalize the leases, but would conduct additional environmental analysis.

In October 2009, Salazar announced that eight of 77 oil and gas lease parcels sold during a December auction in the waning hours of the Bush administration will be off-limits to drilling. Earthjustice continues to challenge plans to open an additional 2 millions acres of Utah public lands to oil and gas development.


Missouri Breaks National Monument Instead of extending the National Monument the especially protective management to which it is legally entitled, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopted a resource management plan (RMP) that treats the Monument as if it is indistinguishable from general multiple-use BLM lands. This is perhaps most evident in BLM's designation of a spider web of thousands of miles of trails and routes for motorized vehicles that BLM admits will damage the objects whose protection motivated the Monument's creation. Earthjustice represents a coalition of four environmental groups challenging the Monument's RMP.
Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Rulemaking

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission is promulgating regulations to implement statutory changes enacted from the 2007 legislative session. These new regulations are expected to substantially change the state permitting process for oil and gas development in Colorado. For the first time, the regulations will systemically address public health, environmental and wildlife concerns. 

Earthjustice has been asked to represent the conservation community in these proceedings, to make the case for regulations that are open and transparent and protective of the environment, and to counter an intense campaign by the oil and gas industry to weaken the proposed rules.

Protecting Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments from Off-Road Vehicles

President Clinton created the Grand Canyon-Parashant and Vermilion Cliffs National Monuments in 2000 to protect their spectacular landscapes, unparalleled geological formations, artifacts from more than 10,000 years of human history, wildlife, and the solitude and remoteness essential to the character of these lands. To protect these valuable resources just north of the Grand Canyon, the Presidential Proclamations specifically prohibited the use of motorized vehicles off of any roads.

Instead of extending the National Monuments the especially protective management to which they are legally entitled, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopted resource management plans (RMPs) that treat the monuments as if they are indistinguishable from general multiple-use BLM lands. This is perhaps most evident in BLM's designation of a spider web of thousands of miles of trails and routes for motorized vehicles that BLM admits will damage the objects to be protected by the proclamations. 

In addition to failing to comply with the Monument Proclamations, BLM also relied on a settlement agreement between the Department of the Interior and State of Utah to unlawfully disavow its statutory authority to fully consider the protection of wilderness-quality lands in the monuments. As a result, the solitude, remoteness, and wildlife habitat so important to these lands may be degraded or destroyed by motor vehicle use and other activities permitted by BLM. 

Earthjustice represents a coalition of five environmental groups challenging the monuments' RMPs.

Stopping the Subsidization of Oil Shale Industrial Development in the West

Earthjustice, on behalf of 13 conservation groups, filed two lawsuits in federal court in Colorado on January 16, 2009, challenging last-minute efforts by the Bush administration to subsidize oil shale industrial development across wildlands in Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah.

The first suit challenges the Bush administration's decision to give the green light to oil shale leasing across two million acres of public lands. The suit challenges the Bureau of Land Management's decision to cut the public out of the decisionmaking process by failure to permit the public to challenge the action in an administrative "protest" before finalizing the decision. Conservation groups also charge that the BLM failed to even consider protecting wildlands and habitat for the imperiled sage grouse while permitting some leasing to go ahead.

The second suit challenges the Bush administration's decision to issue new rules for managing oil shale. These rules provide huge subsidies to those hoping to start a domestic oil shale industry by cutting the rate US taxpayers will get from the sale of oil shale to less than 1/2 what it is for conventional oil and gas. The groups charge this violates the law's requirement that taxpayers get a fair return for the shale removed from America's public lands. The groups also challenge the agency's failure to divulge the environmental impact of subsidizing the industry.

Graham's Penstemon: Wildflower on the Brink

The Graham's penstemon is a beautiful wildflower that lives exclusively on oil shale in the Unita Basin of northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado. The penstemon is uniquely adapted to live in this harsh, dry climate. Future development of oil and gas and oil shale threatens the very existence of this flower.

In 2006, the Fish & Wildlife Service proposed that the Graham's penstemon be inclused on the endangered species list. But in 2007, the FWS reversed its decision, despite scientific evidence that this wildflower is threatened.

Earthjustice is suing on behalf of conservationists.

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.