|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in Another Circuit||The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of national forest land, was repealed by the Bush adminstration and replaced by a state-by-state petition process.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.
|Rock Creek Mine: Threat to Wildlife||
The proposed Rock Creek Mine project in northwest Montana would be located adjacent to and literally under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area in the Kootenai National Forest. The copper and silver mine's location is in a sensitive portion of grizzly bear habitat, and construction will add sediment to local waters, which would smother bull trout spawning areas.
Since 2001, the Fish & Wildlife Service has issued flawed biological opinions repeatedly, and Earthjustice has repeatedly -- and successfully -- challenged the approval for the mine.
In December 2007, the Fish & Wildlife Service once again gave the mining company approval to begin construction activities, based on a biological opinion that relies on mitigation measures that are not sufficient to protect the populations of grizzly bear. This biological opinion also permits extensive degradation of a portion of Rock Creek previously deemed critical habitat for bull trout.
To allow mining and other mineral development under federally designated wilderness would set a dangerous precedent. Earthjustice is challenging this renewed approval for the mine.
|Wyoming Elk Feedgrounds||
The state of Wyoming operates 23 winter feedgrounds for elk, many of them on federal lands. These feedgrounds artificially concentrate elk populations, which fuels the spread of diseases such as brucellosis and creates the prospect of a major chronic wasting disease epidemic. Conservationists sued to compel long overdue environmental analysis of alternatives to elk-feeding in Wyoming.
In July 2009 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the four elk feed grounds on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management are exempt from a new environmental impacts analysis, due to an old memorandum of understanding agreed to by the BLM and the state of Wyoming. However, as a result of this lawsuit, the U.S. Forest Service prepared an environmental impact statement examining the impacts of feed grounds within the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
|Bush Roadless Repeal||In July 2005, the Bush adminstration repealed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Forest Service regulation which generally prohibited logging, road construction, and other development on over 58 million acres of roadless land in national forests. Earthjustice challenged the repeal, and on September 20, 2006, a federal district court ordered reinstatement of the rule. Furthermore, on November 29, 2006, the court ordered the Forest Service to stop work on 84 oil and gas projects and an Idaho road project that had been approved during the five years that the roadless rule was illegally repealed.|
|Power Plant Threat in Yellowstone||The government blessed a new coal-fired power plant planned for central Montana that would pollute the air over Yellowstone and other clean-air places despite objections from the National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service. Earthjustice challenged the plant in court, the government withdrew the approval, and the case was dismissed.|
|Wolverines: Legal Protection Needed||
The wolverine is generally intolerant of human disturbance in its habitat. Its presence in a area signifies untrammeled, uncompromised wilderness. This lawsuit asked a federal court to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to consider new legal protections for the wolverine.
In October 2006, a federal judged ruled that the FWS wrongly rejected scientific information regarding the wolverine that "shows a dramatic loss in range, the tangible decrease in population with the commensurate threat of genetic isolation of subpopulations, and the threat posed by human encroachment on wolverines."
|Appeals Reform Act||The Bush administration has put forward new regulations that would eliminate the right of ordinary citizens to participate in the management of their nation's forests. Earthjustice has challenged the regulations in court.|
|Wyoming Wolf Plan Intervention||Wyoming's wolves are protected by the federal government. The state wants to take over management and allow the killing of wolves. The Fish and Wildlife Service denied Wyoming's plan; ranchers, farmers, and others filed suit; and Earthjustice intevened to assure a stout defense of the wolves.|
|Rock Creek Mine||The Fish and Wildlife Service rewrote a biological opinion that originally said that a mine proposed in the Cabinet Mountains in Montana could wipe out grizzly bears and bull trout there -- the new opinion says the mine poses no threat. A district court has now ruled that opinion illegal too, halting the mine for now.|
|Protecting Viable Wildlife Populations||A 1976 law requires the Forest Service to maintain viable populations of wildlife species on the national forests. In September 2004, the Bush administration rewrote rules adopted during the Reagan administation to gut what's called "viapops." In March 2007, the court ruled that the rewritten rules were invalid.|
|Grizzly Bear Road Standards||The Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service have approved new road access standards through grizzly bear habitat in Montana, Idaho, and Washington that are inadequate to protect the bears and their habitat. A lawsuit seeks to reform the standards.|