Wilderness Watch et al v. Vilsack et al
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER - NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that the motions to alter or amend the judgment (docket nos. 54 & 55 ) be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART. They are granted to the extent that they seek to amend the scope of t he injunction issued in the Memorandum Decision (docket no. 52 ) and Judgment (docket no. 53 ). They are denied in all other respects. IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that the injunction issued in the Memorandum Decision (docket no. 52 ) and Judgment (docket no. 53 ) is amended. 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 (cjs)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF IDAHO
WILDERNESS WATCH, FRIENDS OF THE
CLEARWATER, and WESTERN
Case No. 4:16-CV-012-BLW
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND
TOM VILSACK, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture;
TOM TIDWELL, Chief, U.S. Forest Service;
NORA RASURE, Regional Forester of Region
Four of the U.S. Forest Service; CHARLES
MARK, Salmon-Challis National Forest
Supervisor; and VIRGIL MOORE, Director,
Idaho Department of Fish and Game,
The Court has before it motions to reconsider filed by defendants Forest Service
and Virgil Moore, Director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG). The
motions are fully briefed and at issue. For the reasons explained below, the Court will
grant both motions in part.
The plaintiffs filed this suit challenging the Forest Service’s approval of an IDFG
helicopter project in the Frank Church Wilderness to tranquilize and collar elk with
monitors to trace their movements. Ignoring a prior directive of the Court, the Forest
Service allowed the project to begin immediately, preventing plaintiff environmental
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 1
groups from being able to timely seek injunctive relief. Within three days the IDFG
project was completed, and 57 elk and 4 wolves were collared.
The Court held that the project violated NEPA and the Wilderness Act, and was
carried out in violation of a prior Court directive requiring the Forest Service to give
notice of such projects to allow environmental groups time to object. The Court ordered
that all the data on both wolves and elk gained from that operation be destroyed. The
Court also enjoined the Forest Service from approving any future helicopter projects
without delaying implementation for 90-days to allow affected groups to file challenges
to the projects.
The defendants seek reconsideration of that decision, urging the Court to reverse
its decision ordering the data to be destroyed, and seeking to narrow the scope of the
injunction. The Court will turn first to the challenge to the data destruction issue.
The Forest Service argues that plaintiffs never requested an injunction preventing
the Forest Service from considering the elk data – only the wolf data. Plaintiffs’
complaint was so limited, but its briefing requesting an injunction urged the Court to
order that all the data – on both wolves and elk – be destroyed. See Plaintiffs’ Brief (Dkt.
No. 21-1) at p. 25. The IDFG and the Forest Service have had a full and fair opportunity
to address this issue and cannot argue they were surprised by the injunction issued by the
The defendants argue next that the Court went too far in imposing a mandatory
injunction requiring that the data be destroyed. The Court addressed this argument at
length in its Memorandum Decision and will not repeat it here. It is enough to say that
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 2
the public interest demanded this consequence for the violations of NEPA, the
Wilderness Act, and this Court’s prior order, and that it was necessary to prevent future
harm from the use of the data to track wolves and justify further helicopter intrusions on
the Wilderness Area.
The defendants are on stronger ground in arguing that the portion of the injunction
requiring 90-days notice be limited to “elk collaring activities.” In a broader alternative,
defendants propose applying it to “wildlife management activities.” The plaintiffs object
that these changes would unduly limit the injunction, although they would agree to a
modification ensuring that the injunction would not apply to “helicopter operations that
are necessary on an emergency basis to protect human health, safety, or property, such as
search and rescue or fire control, or for emergency law enforcement activities.”
The injunction must be tailored to be no broader than necessary. See Nat. Res.
Def. Council v. Winter, 508 F.3d 885, 886 (9th Cir. 2007) (holding that “[i]njunctive
relief must be tailored to remedy the specific harm alleged, and an overbroad . . .
injunction is an abuse of discretion”). This case was about a helicopter project designed
to further wildlife management activities in the Wilderness Area, and the injunction
should be so tailored. Accordingly, the Court will adopt the defendants’ suggestion that
the 90-day notice requirement be limited to helicopter projects for “wildlife management
activities.” The Court will also adopt the suggestion of both sides that the injunction not
apply to emergency operations to protect human health, safety or property.
In accordance with the Memorandum Decision set forth above,
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 3
NOW THEREFORE IT IS HEREBY ORDERED, that the motions to alter or
amend the judgment (docket nos. 54 & 55) be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
PART. They are granted to the extent that they seek to amend the scope of the injunction
issued in the Memorandum Decision (docket no. 52) and Judgment (docket no. 53).
They are denied in all other respects.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, that the injunction issued in the Memorandum
Decision (docket no. 52) and Judgment (docket no. 53) is amended to add the following
language: The Forest Service is enjoined from approving any future helicopter projects
for wildlife management activities without delaying implementation for 90-days to allow
affected groups to file challenges to the projects. This injunction shall not apply to
helicopter operations that are necessary on an emergency basis to protect human health,
safety, or property, such as search and rescue or fire control, or for emergency law
DATED: August 30, 2017
B. Lynn Winmill
United States District Court
Memorandum Decision & Order – page 4
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?