Cascadia Wildlands et al v. Scott Timber Co. et al
Order, Opinion. Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction 2 is GRANTED. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65, the Court hereby enjoins defendants from engaging in any further activities on the Benson Ridge parcel in furtherance of the Benson Snake or Little Benson project. The preliminary injunction will remain in place until the Court has ruled on any future dispositive motions in this case, or until the matter is otherwise resolved. No bond is required. See, Formal Opinion. Signed on 12/19/2016 by Judge Ann L. Aiken. (rr)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF OREGON
CASCADIA WILDLANDS, THE CENTER
FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, and
AUDUBON SOCIETY OF PORTLAND,
Case No. 6:16-cv-01710-AA
OPINION AND ORDER
SCOTT TIMBER CO. and ROSEBURG
FOREST PRODUCTS CO.,
Plaintiff environmental organizations bring this action pursuant to the Endangered Species
Act ("ESA"), 16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq., against defendant logging companies. Plaintiffs seek to
temporarily enjoin implementation of defendants' Benson Snake logging project. Plaintiffs allege
the Benson Snake logging project would destroy forty-nine acres of old-growth and mature forest
Page 1 - OPINION AND ORDER
habitat occupied by marbled muJTelets, a threatened species under the ESA. Specifically, plaintiffs
argue that logging in occupied marbled muITelet habitat constitutes an unauthorized "take" of the
marbled muITelet by harming and harassing the species in violation of Section 9 of the ESA. In
response, defendants assert plaintiffs did not comply with notice requirements, lack standing, are
unlikely to succeed on the merits, and have not demonstrated itTeparable hmm will result in the
absence of an injunction. They also contend that an injunction is not in the public interest. For the
reasons set fotih below, plaintiffs' motion for a preliminmy injunction is granted.
In 2013, the Oregon State Land Board offered three tracts of the Elliott State Forest for sale.
Defs.' Resp. 4 (doc. 18). Before defendants bid on the land, plaintiffs sent a letter indicating the
tracts were occupied by marbled mutTelets, a threatened species under the ESA. Plaintiffs stated they
intended to sue under the ESA if defendants logged the tracts. Folk. Deel. Ex. I 06. Defendant Scott
Timber Co. then purchased two of the tracts. Defs.' Resp. 5. Once the sales closed, plaintiffs sent
another letter to defendants indicating that if defendants began logging the tracts, plaintiffs would
commence a citizen suit under the ESA. Folk Deel. Ex. I 08.
In anticipation of plaintiffs' citizen suit, defendants hired a consulting fitm, Western
Ecosystems Technology, Inc. ("WEST"), to conduct a study regarding marbled mutTelet presence
within the tracts purchased by defendants. Defs.' Resp. 9. Dr. Steven P. Courtney, a PhD scientist
with extensive experience researching marbled murrelets and a variety of other sensitive species, led
the study team. The WEST study determined defendants could clear cut the Benson Snake area
within the Benson Ridge parcel without harming marbled muJTelets. That detetmination rested on
the finding that the habitat within the Benson Ridge parcel was not used for nesting by marbled
Page 2 - OPINION AND ORDER
murrelets in 2015 and 2016. Thompson Deel.~~ 16, 20-21.
In contrast, plaintiffs allege the Benson Snake parcel is occupied by marbled mut1'elets. Pis.'
Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 4 (doc. 2). In May 2014, plaintiffs conducted a survey of the area using the
Pacific Seabird Group's "Methods for Surveying Marbled Murrelets in Forests: A Revised Protocol
for Land Management and Research." ("PSG Protocol"). Pis.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 11. That survey
yielded observation of a single pair of marbled mut1'elets flying across the Benson Ridge parcel at
0.8 canopy height. Ex. 109; McMahon Deel.
9-11. According to the PSG Protocol, a site is
occupied by marbled murrelets where the seabirds have been observed exhibiting subcanopy
behaviors, which "occur at or below the forest canopy and that strongly indicate that the site has
some importance for breeding." Pis.' Mot. For Prelim. Inj. 4 (quotation marks omitted). Under the
PSG Protocol, if even one occupancy behavior is detected within a block of contiguous habitat, the
entire contiguous stand is classified as occupied. Id. at 4.
Relying on the results of their survey, plaintiffs filed this lawsuit alleging defendants will
violate Section 9 of the ESA if they harvest timber on the Benson Ridge parcel. Plaintiffs now seek
a preliminary injunction to halt the logging of the Benson Snake project until the merits of the case
can be decided. Defendants ask this Court to deny plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction.
Defendants first argue this court lacks jurisdiction to issue a preliminmy injunction because
plaintiffs failed to provide the pre-suit notice required by statute. Defendants asse1i plaintiffs did not
provide valid notice under the ESA because they contacted defendants in 2014, at which time "the
Benson Snake project had not been planned, much less initiated." Defs.' Resp. 20. Plaintiffs argue
Page 3 - OPINION AND ORDER
that a party may provide anticipatory notice of an ESA violation because the fundamental purpose
of Section 9 is to prevent harm to listed species before it occurs. Pls.' Reply 3 (doc. 21 ).
The ESA requires plaintiffs to provide written notice of any violations at least sixty days prior
to the commencement of a lawsuit. 16 U.S.C. § 1540(g)(2)(A)(i). Notice is a jurisdictional
requirement. Conservation Cong. v. Finley, 774 F.3d 611, 617 (9th Cir. 2014). When providing
notice of a citizen snit, the plaintiff "is not required to list eve1y specific aspect or detail of every
alleged violation. Nor is the citizen required to describe every ramification of a violation." Cmty.
Ass 'nfor Restoration ofthe Env 't v. Henry Bosma Dairy, 305 F.3d 943, 951 (9th Cir. 2002). Instead,
the analysis turns on the overall sufficiency of the notice. Klamath-Siskiyou Wild/ands Ctr. v.
lvfacWhorter, 797 F.3d 645, 651 (9th Cir. 2015); see also Marbled lvfurreletv. Babbitt, 83 F.3d 1068,
1073 (9th Cir. 1996) (examining "the letter as a whole" for notice sufficiency). The question is
whether the notice provided sufficient info1mation to allow the defendant to detect and address the
alleged violation, bearing in mind the defendant's greater access to info1mation about its own
activities. Klamath-Siskiyou Wild/ands Ctr., 797 F.3d at 651. "A reviewing court may examine both
the notice itself and the behavior ofits recipients to determine whether they understood or reasonably
should have understood the alleged violations." Id
Analyzing the overall sufficiency of plaintiffs' letter, notice was valid. Defendants received
notice sixty days prior to the commencement of this case. Though the notice anived before the
specific harvest plan for the Benson Snake Unit was developed, defendants, as logging companies,
purchased the Benson Ridge for timber harvest. Plaintiffs understood this and gave notice to
defendants that they would pursue action against any timber harvests in the parcel because marbled
mmTelets allegedly breed in the parcel. Since defendants are private logging companies, plaintiffs
Page 4 - OPINION AND ORDER
could not know precisely when the Benson Snake logging project was developed. Because
defendants were fairly put on notice of plaintiffs' intent to sue, it does not matter that they were
unable to describe the logging project in detail in their notice letter. See Ecological Rights Found.
v. Pac. Gas & Elec. Co., 713 F.3d 502, 506-07 (9th Cir. 2013) (holding notice was sufficient under
the ESA when the letter provided a non-exhaustive list of example violations).
Defendants' behavior after receiving the letter also makes clear they had the opportunity to
identify and abate violations. In fact, defendants explain Scott Timber commissioned the WEST
study "[i]n anticipation of litigation ... to investigate [p]laintiffs' allegations pertaining to possible
marbled mmTelet use of the tract." Defs.' Resp. 6. In other words, in response to the letter,
defendants tried to prevent or combat future litigation regarding take of the marbled mun-elet. Thus,
plaintiffs' 2014 notice letter is sufficient and valid.
Defendants next argue plaintiffs lack standing. Defs.' Resp. 22. "A threshold question in
evety federal case is ... whether at least one plaintiff has standing." Thomas v. Mundell, 572 F.3d
756, 760 (9th Cir. 2009) (citation and quotation marks omitted). To establish Atticle III standing,
plaintiffs must show (1) an injmy in fact, which is an injmy that is concrete and particularized, and
actual or imminent; (2) a causal connection between the injury and the conduct; and (3) a likelihood
that the injmy will be redressed by a favorable decision. Liljan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S.
555, 560-61 (1992).
An iajmy-in-fact must be concrete, particularized, and actual or imminent. Plaintiffs argue
that defendants' logging project will injure plaintiffs' ability to view marbled murrelets as well as
Page 5 - OPINION AND ORDER
hinder their recreation in and enjoyment of the Elliott State Forest. These concrete aesthetic and
recreational injuries are cognizable in federal court. See Sierra Club v. 1\1orton, 405 U.S. 727, 734
(1972) ("[A]esthetic and environmental well-being, like economic well-being, are important
ingredients of the quality of life in our society."); See also Nat'/ Audubon Socy v. Davis, 307 F.3d
835, 849 (9th Cir. 2002) ("We hold that Audubon alleged sufficient injmy to the aesthetic,
recreational, and scientific interests of its members in the observation of birds and other wildlife to
satisfy the injury-in-fact requirement.").
Defendants contend plaintiffs will not suffer a concrete injury as a result of the logging
because the public lost legal access to the Benson Ridge Tract when Scott Timber purchased it.
However, plaintiffs still view and enjoy the Benson Ridge parcel from the public 4000 Road as well
as from nearby public lands. Pis.' Reply 11. As plaintiffs correctly asse1t, their "interest in observing
the forest and wildlife on private land, from a publically accessible vantage point, is sufficient to
confer standing." Id; see also Cantrell v. City of Long Beach, 241F.3d674, 681 (9th Cir. 2001)
("[W]e have never required a plaintiff to show that he has a right of access to the site on which the
challenged activity is occun-ing, or that he has an absolute right to enjoy the aesthetic or recreational
activities that form the basis of his concrete interest. If an area can be observed and enjoyed from
adjacent land, plaintiffs need not physically enter the affected area to establish an injmy in fact.").
Plaintiffs' injuries are also paiticularized. For an injury to be particularized, "it must affect
the plaintiff in a personal and individual way." Spokeo, Inc. v. Robins, 136 S. Ct. 1540, 1548 (2016).
Francis Eaitherington, Board Member of plaintiff Cascadia Wildlands, explained that "[t]he Elliott
State Forest and surrounding areas are ve1y special to me .... Logging cuts up the forest and
eliminates continuous forest stands in the smTounding Elliott State Forest, which are one of that
Page 6 - OPINION AND ORDER
forest's greatest qualities. Without these continuous forest areas, I am concerned that my ability to
hear or attempt to see marbled mmTelets in Benson Ridge parcel and the sunounding Elliott State
Forest will be greatly reduced, which will diminish my enjoyment of the forest." Eatherington Deel.
8-9. Plaintiffs adequately allege that defendants' logging project would injure Eatherington and other
declarants in a personal way, satisfying the particularized injury requirement for standing.
Finally, plaintiffs' injuries are imminent, not "conjectural or hypothetical." Lujan, 504 U.S.
at 560. To assess imminence, comis focus on the likelihood the harm will occur. Members of
plaintiff organizations have concrete plans to continue using the Benson Ridge parcel for recreational
and aesthetic reasons, meaning their injuries will occur as imminently as their next visit. One
declarant reports that he
[P]lans to go to the Elliott State Forest and drive by the Benson Ridge parcel in the
next six months .... The loss of old-growth and mature forest areas in Oregon's
coast range also causes me irreparable harm because there is so little of this habitat
remaining in these forests and so few places for me to go to visit in order to attempt
to see or hear mmTelets.
Greenwald Deel. 16. While the Supreme Comi miiculated that "'some day' intentions -
any description of concrete plans, or indeed even any specification of when the some day will bedo not supp011 a finding of the 'actual or imminent' injury required," Lzifan, 504 U.S. at 564,
plaintiffs here adequately allege concrete plans to return to the Benson Ridge parcel. See Ecological
Rights Found v. Pac. Lumber Co., 230 F.3d 1141, 1149 (9th Cir. 2000) ("Repeated recreational use
itself, accompanied by a credible allegation of desired future use, can be sufficient, even ifrelatively
infrequent, to demonstrate that environmental degradation of the area is injurious to that person.").
Causal Connection and Redressability
While defendants do not argue that plaintiffs failed to adequately allege causation or
Page 7 - OPINION AND ORDER
redressability, comts have an independent duty to ensure jurisdiction exits. United States v. Ewing,
638 F.3d 1226, 1230 (9th Cir.2011) (Article III standing is jurisdictional). At this stage of the
proceedings, plaintiffs' allegations satisfy the second and third prongs of the standing inquiry.
Plaintiffs' aesthetic and recreational injuries are connected to the harvest of the Benson Ridge parcel
because if defendants do not harvest the Benson Ridge parcel, plaintiffs' injuries would not occur.
A favorable decision here also would redress plaintiffs' injuries. Plaintiffs allege recreational
and aesthetic injury resulting from the proposed Benson Snake logging project. An injunction barring
logging of the parcel would redress those injuries by leaving the mature and old growth forest
standing and ensuring that the marbled murrelet population does not diminish in the Benson Ridge
parcel due to logging of the Benson Snake Unit. Having found plaintiffs have standing, I now
examine their request for a preliminary injunction.
Plaintiffs ask this Coutt to enjoin logging in the Benson Snake parcel until this case is
decided on the merits. Defendants argue plaintiffs failed to meet the standard for a preliminaty
injunction. A preliminaty injunction is an "extraordinaty remedy that may only be awarded upon a
clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief." Winter v. Natural Res. Def Council, 555
U.S. 7, 22 (2008). The patties disagree on the conect formulation of the preliminary injunction
standard after Winter. For clarity, I review the Ninth Circuit's preliminmy injunction caselaw.
In the past, the Ninth Circuit articulated two standards for granting preliminary injunctions,
described as "traditional" and "alternative." Cassim v. Bowen, 824 F.2d 791, 795 (9th Cir. 1987)
(quoting Am. }dotocyclist Ass 'n v. Wall, 714 F.2d 962, 965 (9th Cir. 1983)). Under the traditional
standard, a plaintiff seeking a preliminaiy injunction must establish a likelihood of success on the
Page 8 - OPINION AND ORDER
merits, a likelihood the plaintiff will suffer irreparable hatm in the absence ofpreliminaty relief, that
the balance of equities tips in the plaintiff's favor, and that the injunction is in the public interest.
Id Under the alternative standard, a party's preliminaiy injunction burden operates on a sliding scale,
pe1mitting a plaintiff to show: "either (1) a likelihood of success on the merits and the possibility of
ineparable inju1y; or (2) serious questions going to the merits and a balance of hardships strongly
favoring [the moving party]." Paramount Land Co. LP v. Cal. Pistachio Comm 'n, 491 F.3d 1003,
1008 (9th Cir. 2007).
In Winter, the Supreme Court rejected the first sliding scale formulation of the Ninth
Circuit's alternative standard. The Ninth Circuit had affitmed a district court's issuance of an
injunction based on a finding of a strong likelihood of success on the merits coupled with the
"possibility" of iiTeparable harm, invoking the first sliding scale test under the alternative standard.
Natural Res. Def Council, Inc. v. Winter, 518 F.3d 658, 696-97 (9th Cir. 2008). The Supreme Comt
reversed, holding that "the Ninth Circuit's 'possibility' standard is too lenient." Winter, 555 U.S. at
21. The Court articulated a standard for iajunctive relief that was consistent with the Ninth Circuit's
traditional standard. Id. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg explained that the Court had not rejected
every version of a "sliding scale" for injunctive relief, only the first sliding scale test under the
alternative standard. Id. at 52 (Ginsburg, J., dissenting).
The question remained whether the second sliding scale test, that of serious questions going
to the merits and a balance of hardships favoring the moving party, survived Winter. The Ninth
Circuit addressed this question in Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Cottrell, 632 F.3d 1127 (9th Cir.
2011). Much like the present case, the plaintiffs in Alliance for the Wild Rockies were various
environmental advocacy groups that moved for a preliminaty injunction blocking certain logging
Page 9 - OPINION AND ORDER
projects. The district court denied the injunction, relying on Winter. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit
reversed and ordered the district cou1t to enter the injunction. After deciding that ineparable hatm
was likely, the Ninth Circuit concluded that the "serious questions" sliding scale test survived
Winter. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, 632 F.3d at 1134 ("For the reasons identified by our sister
circuits and our district courts, we join the Seventh and the Second Circuits in concluding that the
'serious questions' version of the sliding scale test for preliminary injunctions remains viable after
the Supreme Comt's decision in Winter."). Thus, in the Ninth Circuit, a preliminary injunction is
wananted where the plaintiff demonstrates that serious questions going to the merits were raised and
the balance of hardships tips sharply in the plaintiffs favor, provided the other Winter elements of
the test for injunctive relief are met (likelihood of irreparable injury and that the injunction is in the
public interest). See id. at 1135.
Serious Questions Going to the Merits
Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction under Section 9 of the ESA. Section 9 of the ESA
prohibits the taking of an endangered or threatened species. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(l)(B). The ESA
defines "take" to include "to harass, hatm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture or collect,
or to attempt to engage in any such conduct." 16 U.S.C. § 1532(19). "Harass" is fmther defined as
"an intentional or negligent act ... which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it
to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not
limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering." 50 C.F.R. § 17.3; See also Marbled lvfurreletv. Babbitt,
83 F .3d 1060, 1068 (9th Cir. 1996). A take may involve a past or cunent injury, or the prospect of
an imminent threat ofhatm to a protected species. Forest Conserv. Council v. Rosboro Lumber Co.,
50 F.3d 781, 784 (9th Cir. 1995).
Page 10 - OPINION AND ORDER
Defendants plan to clear-cut foiiy-nine acres of a 355-acre parcel that plaintiffs claim is
suitable habitat occupied by marbled murrelets. Pis.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 18 (doc. 2). If plaintiffs
are correct that the site of the project is occupied, take of the threatened species is likely since "take"
means "to harm," and harm includes "significant habitat modification or degradation where it
actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavioral patterns, including
breeding, feeding or sheltering." 50 C.F.R. § 17.3. Clear-cut harvesting of forty-nine contiguous
acres used by a threatened species qualifies as "significant habitat degradation or modification,"
because it would destroy the habitability of the entire Benson Snake Unit for marbled murrelet
breeding. Id. Therefore, if occupied, the harvest would "take" marbled murrelets through harm.
Defendants' project may also "take" marbled murrelets by directly killing or injuring a member of
the species during the actual logging activity.
However, if defendants are conect that marbled murrelets do not occupy the Benson Ridge
parcel, no take would occur and plaintiffs' claims would fail. Therefore, I must determine whether
plaintiffs have shown serious questions going to the merits as to whether the Benson Ridge parcel
is occupied by marbled murrelets.
Relying on the PSG Protocol, plaintiffs conclude the proposed project site is occupied by
marbled murrelets. Defendants question the scientific basis for that conclusion. They contend
plaintiffs' use of the PSG Protocol for detecting occupied marbled murrelet sites was inappropriate.
Defendants argue that although the study design of the PSG Protocol provides "a reasonable
approach for designing and carrying out audio-visual surveys of marbled munelets, [its] guidelines
and recommendations for interpreting survey data is not based on the latest and best available
science[.]" Defs.' Resp. 28. Defendants aver the WEST study, by contrast, is based on the latest and
Page 11 - OPINION AND ORDER
best available science. This argument has merit. The PSG Protocol has not been revised for thitteen
years, during which time significant published research has developed regarding interpretation of
survey data and marbled murrelets. Courtney Deel. 12-16. Plaintiffs acknowledge that the PSG
Protocol has not been revised since 2003 and that it is cmTently under revision based on review of
that research. Pis.' Reply 20.
Plaintiffs counter that the PSG Protocol methods they utilized to detenninetheBensonRidge
parcel was occupied are well-established and widely accepted within the scientific community. Pis.'
Reply 20. They argue that at this stage, such a well-established methodology should not be jettisoned
in favor of an untested new methodology, no matter how well-qualified defendants' expert 1 is. This
argument has merit as well. Since both plaintiffs and defendants make compelling arguments, the
issue here, as with many environmental cases, boils down to which scientific approach is best.
At this point, it is unnecessary to determine whose scientific methodology is best. I must
dete1mine whether there are serious questions that go to the merits. For the purposes of injunctive
relief, "serious questions refers to questions which cannot be resolved one way or the other at the
hearing on the injunction and as to which the court perceives a need to preserve the status quo lest
one side prevent resolution of the questions or execution of any judgment by altering the status quo."
Rep. ofPhilippines v. Marcos, 862 F.2d 1355, 1362 (9th Cir. 1988). That standard is easily satisfied
here. Both parties' occupancy conclusions rest on plausible scientific backed by qualified expe1ts.
Because serious questions exist as to the merits of this case, this first factor favors a preliminmy
Like defendants, plaintiffs offer a scientific expe1t opinion, that of Dr. Richard Golightly.
Dr. Golightly is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Wildlife at Humboldt State University
and an expert on seabirds including marbled murrelets. Golightly Deel. 1 (doc. 21-1).
Page 12 - OPINION AND ORDER
Likelihood ofIrreparable Harm
Plaintiffs must show a likelihood ofirreparable hmm absent a preliminmy injunction. In order
to obtain a preliminary injunction, a plaintiff must establish irreparable harm is likely, not just
possible. Winter, 555 U.S. at 7. Here plaintiffs assert the "unauthorized taking of marbled murrelets
... is clearly irreparable." Pis.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 19. Plaintiffs explain they enjoy watching the
threatened seabirds in the Elliott State Forest, and that logging of the Benson Snake parcel will
lessen their enjoyment. Id. If marbled murrelets occupy the Benson Ridge parcel, that hmm would
be hTeparable. See Se. Alaska Conserv. Council v. U.S. Army Corps ofEngrs., 472 F.3d I 097, 1100
(9th Cir. 2006) ("Ongoing harm to the environment constitutes irreparable hmm warranting an
injunction."). If marbled murrelets do not occupy the parcel, there is no likelihood ofhTeparable
hmm. Here, the likelihood of irreparable injmy -
like the likelihood of success on the merits -
depends on which scientific method to follow in determining occupancy. The first and second
preliminmy injunction factors are inextricably intertwined. Since these two factors are bound
together, plaintiffs have provided sufficient showing of likely irreparable harm by showing that
serious questions exist as to the merits. Cf Seaton v. Wiener, 22 F. Supp. 3d 945, 951 (D. Minn.
2014) ("[T)he irreparable harm factor generally weighs in the movant's favor in First Amendment
cases, although it is often intettwined with a comt's evaluation of the likelihood of success on the
merits."); Deltek, Inc. v. luvo Sys., Inc., 2009 WL I 073196, *6 (E.D. Va. 2009) (finding a sufficient
showing on the first and second Winter factors where the determination of itTeparable hmm is
"bound up" with an inquiry into the likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits of
trademark infringement and unfair competition claims); Times-News Pub. Co. v. City ofBurlington,
2008 WL 2622995, *3 (M.D.N.C. Jun. 30, 2008) (same in First Amendment case).
Page 13 - OPINION AND ORDER
Defendants also argue plaintiffs have not demonstrated likely irreparable harm because they
have not shown the timber harvest will hmm marbled mutTelets at the population level. They
maintain that "[w]here a plaintiffs interest in a species relates primarily to the species as a whole
(as opposed to specific animals) courts have consistently held that the likelihood of irreparable hmm
must be measured at the species level," and contend plaintiffs "have not demonstrated an interest in
specific members of the marbled murrelet species." Defs.' Resp. 31-32. Defendants are misguided.
Plaintiffs have in fact alleged an interest in specific members of the marbled murrelet species.
Plaintiffs may care about the species as a whole, but in this suit they assert an interest in the marbled
mmTelets that occupy the Benson Ridge parcel, and specifically an interest in observing marbled
murrelets in that parcel. They cannot observe marbled murrelets in the Benson Ridge parcel if it is
clear-cut. Since ineparable hmm is bound up in the serious questions to the merits inquity, and since
plaintiffs demonstrated an interest in the pair of marbled munelets allegedly seen flying over the
Benson Ridge canopy, plaintiffs established likely irreparable harm, favoring a preliminaiy
Plaintiffs next must show that the balance of hardships tips sharply in their favor. Stuhlbarg
Int'l Sales Co. v. John D. Brush & Co., Inc., 240 F.3d 832, 839-40 (9th Cir. 2001). In cases brought
under the ESA, the balance of hardships automatically tips in favor of the endangered species. Tenn.
Valley Auth. v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153, 194 (1978) ("Congress has spoken in the plainest of words,
making it abundantly clear that the balance has been struck in favor of affording endangered species
the highest of priorities[.]"). The Ninth Circuit recognizes this removal of traditional equitable
discretion in ESA proceedings. Cottonwood Envtl. Law Ctr. v. United States Forest Serv., 789 F.3d
Page 14 - OPINION AND ORDER
1075, 1091 (9th Cir. 2015) ("First, our opinion does nothing to disturb the Supreme Court's holding
... that when evaluating a request for injunctive relief to remedy an ESA procedural violation, the
equities and public interest factors always tip in favor of the protected species."). 2
However, a plaintiff cannot merely "state that the balance of the hardships and the public
interest falls in its favor." Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Kruger, 35 F. Supp. 3d 1259, 1267 (D.
Mont. 2014). Though undoubtedly in many cases the plaintiffs and species' interests align, courts
often conflate those interests without discussion. Such results are not always defensible. Id. at 1266
(where the protected species, not the plaintiffs, was best served by the absence of an injunction, the
balance of hardships and public interest tipped in favor of the defendants). Tlll'eatened species are
the beneficiaries of a preliminaiy injunction under the ESA. Therefore a plaintiff must provide the
court some basis on which it can conclude that an injunction would benefit the protected species and
the plaintiffs by aligning hardships. Id. at 1267.
Here the hardships of plaintiffs and marbled mmrnlets align. Ifthe project proceeds, marbled
murrelets will not be able to nest in the clear-cut parcel for nearly a centmy while the forest regrows.
Pis.' Mot. for Prelim. Inj. 23. Similarly, ifthe project proceeds, plaintiffs will not be able to enjoy
the mature and old growth forest habitat of the marbled murrelets in the Benson Ridge parcel.
Plaintiffs' ability to enjoy observing and listening to the marbled murrelet within the Elliott State
Forest may diminish. Thus, plaintiffs' and the threatened species' hardships align and the balance
of the hardships tips toward plaintiffs, favoring a preliminaiy injunction.
In Cottonwood, the Ninth Circuit reaffirmed that the balance of hardships and public
interest factors always favor an injunction in procedural Section 7 ESA cases. It follows that the
same treatment applies to a substantive Section 9 ESA violation.
Page 15 - OPINION AND ORDER
Like the balance of hardships, the public interest factor always weighs in the species' favor.
Cottonwood 789 F.3d at 1091. Defendants argue that granting an injunction would disadvantage
protected species by discouraging private parties from investing in the "study, protection and
conservation of threatened and endangered wildlife species," as defendants did with the WEST
study. Defs.' Resp. 34 (doc. 18).
Defendants' argument rests on the assumption that the WEST study, not the PSG Protocol,
leads to the co11ect conclusion in this case. The fourth Winter factor, like the second, collapses into
the success on the merits inquity. Accordingly, this favor also weighs in favor of preserving the
No bond shall be required. In public interest environmental cases, the plaintiff need not post
bonds because of the potential chilling effect on litigation to protect the environment and the public
interest. Federal courts have consistently waived the bond requirement in public interest
environmental litigation, or required only a nominal bond. See People ofState of Cal. ex rel. Van
de Kamp v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 766 F.2d 1319 (9th Cir. 1985); Landwatch v.
Connaughton, 905 F. Supp. 2d 1192, 1198 (D. Or. 2012).
Plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction (doc. 2) is GRANTED. Pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 65, the Court hereby enjoins defendants from engaging in any further
activities on the Benson Ridge parcel in furtherance of the Benson Snake or Little Benson project.
The preliminaty injunction will remain in place until the Court has ruled on any future dispositive
Page 16 - OPINION AND ORDER
motions in this case, or until the matter is otherwise resolved. No bond is required.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
United States District Judge
Page 17 - OPINION AND ORDER
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?