Idaho Conservation League et al v. Lannom et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER It is hereby ORDERED, that the motion to alter oramend (docket no. 35 ) is GRANTED. The Memorandum Decision (docket no. 33 ) and Judgment (docket no. 34 ) are AMENDED to allow the work approved by the Record of Decision to proceed in non-Wilderness areas on Forest Service Roads 371 and 373. Signed by Judge B. Lynn Winmill. (caused to be mailed to non Registered Participants at the addresses listed on the Notice of Electronic Filing (NEF) by (jp)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE,
THE WILDERNESS SOCIETY,
EARTHWORKS, FRIENDS OF THE
Case No. 1:15-cv-246-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
LANNOM, KEITH B., Payette National
Forest Supervisor, and U.S. FOREST
The Court has before it a motion to alter or amend judgment filed by intervenor
American Independence Mines & Minerals, LLC (AIMMCO). The motion is fully
briefed and at issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will grant the motion.
In August of 2016, this Court issued a decision finding that the Forest Service
acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner in allowing drilling, road reconstruction, and
the use of motorized vehicles and heavy equipment at the Golden Hand Mine in the
Frank Church - River of No Return Wilderness Area. To authorize this work, the Forest
Service had issued a Record of Decision (ROD), and the Court declared “the ROD and
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 1
the work it authorizes as invalid,” and remanded the case to the Forest Service for further
The company that would have conducted the mining – AIMMCO – responded by
filing the motion now before the Court to amend that decision. AIMMCO argues that a
portion of the ROD authorized work on two Forest Service roads – which lie outside the
Wilderness Area – designed to decrease sediment flow into an adjacent river and to
facilitate access to the Golden Hand Mine. AIMMCO argues that plaintiffs never
challenged this work in their complaint, and it was never addressed in the briefing, yet
the work is now halted because the Court’s decision invalidated all work approved by the
ROD. The Forest Service agrees with AIMMCO and stresses the importance of the work
in reducing sedimentation of the river. Plaintiffs focus instead on the second reason for
the road improvements – facilitating access to the mining site.
The work will rehabilitate 8 miles along Forest Service Roads 371 & 373.
According to Anthony Botello, the Forest Service District Ranger, both roads are in
“poor” condition and contribute 35 metric tons of sediment per year into steam channels.
See Botello Affidavit (Dkt. No. 41-1) at ¶ 8. The Forest Service has been advised by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service to
improve the roads and install aquatic organism passages that will replace vehicular fords.
Id. at ¶ 13. This work will implement that advice, and compliments work done on
another section of Road 371 by the Nez Perce Tribe and the Payette National Forest. The
work “will reduce direct impacts to Endangered Species Act listed fish and designated
critical habitat . . . .” Id. at ¶ 12.
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 2
By improving the roads’ condition and reducing sedimentation, the work will
necessarily improve access to AIMMCO’s mining claims. But the use of the roads to
access the Golden Hand claims will only occur if mining activity on those Claims is
properly authorized, adequately protects the environment, and is approved by this Court.
Meanwhile, critical habitat for listed fish will be improved no matter what happens to the
Golden Hand claims.
The plaintiffs argue that if the work is allowed to go forward, only a portion
should be approved. Plaintiffs argue that work past a certain point will have little impact
on sedimentation, and will only benefit mining claim access. But the record shows
otherwise. District Ranger Botello states that all 8 miles of the roads are sources of
sediment that will be improved by this project. Id. at ¶ 15.
In crafting a remedy, the Court has broad discretion: “Although the district court
has power to do so, it is not required to set aside every unlawful agency action. The
court’s decision to grant or deny injunctive or declaratory relief under the APA is
controlled by principles of equity.” Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n v. Espy, 45 F.3d 1337, 1343 (9th
Cir.1995); See WWP v. Salazar, 2012 WL 5880658 (D. Idaho Nov. 20, 2012) (leaving
invalid ROD in place). Here, the road improvement portion of the ROD was not
specifically challenged in plaintiffs’ complaint, will not be conducted in a Wilderness
Area, and will benefit the critical habitat of listed species. The Court will therefore grant
AIMMCO’s motion and amend its prior decision to allow this portion of the work
approved by the ROD to go forward.
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 3
In accordance with the Memorandum Decision set forth above,
NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that the motion to alter or
amend (docket no. 35) is GRANTED. The Memorandum Decision (docket no. 33) and
Judgment (docket no. 34) are AMENDED to allow the work approved by the Record of
Decision to proceed in non-Wilderness areas on Forest Service Roads 371 and 373.
DATED: January 18, 2017
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 4
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