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Greater Hells Canyon Council v. Stein

United States District Court, D. Oregon, Pendleton Division

May 9, 2018

GREATER HELLS CANYON COUNCIL, an Oregon nonprofit corporation, Plaintiff,
v.
KRIS STEIN, District Ranger for the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, in her official capacity; and UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture, Defendants, and MCCLARAN RANCH, INC., an Oregon Domestic Business Corporation; and WALLOWA COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Oregon, Proposed Defendant-Intervenors.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PATRICIA SULLIVAN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Greater Hells Canyon Council brings this action to challenge the decision by defendants Kris Stein and the U.S. Forest Service to reauthorize livestock grazing in the Lower Imnaha Rangeland Analysis (“LIRA”) area, within the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (“HCNRA”), in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. See Compl. (Docket No. 1). Plaintiff argues that this grazing jeopardizes the Spalding's catchfly, a federal threatened plant endemic to the HCNRA. The Forest Service released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (“Final EIS”) in March 2015, and Stein signed the LIRA Record of Decision (“ROD”) in September 2015, thereby reauthorizing grazing. Compl. ¶¶ 11, 81. Plaintiff brings claims under the National Environmental Policy Act, 43 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq.; the National Forest Management Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1600 et seq.; and the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area Act, 16 U.S.C. § 460gg et seq. Plaintiff seeks to vacate the Final EIS and ROD and to remand for further administrative proceedings.

         McClaran Ranch, Inc. (“Ranch”) and Wallowa County (“County”) have moved to intervene as defendants, as of right under Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a). (Docket No. 6). The Ranch holds grazing permits authorizing cattle grazing on multiple allotments in the LIRA area. McClaran Decl. ¶ 3 (Docket No. 7). The majority of the HCNRA is within the County's borders, and approximately one fourth of the County is within the HCNRA; the LIRA area is entirely within the County. Nash Decl. ¶ 2 (Docket No. 8).

         The existing parties do not oppose intervention. Mot. Intervene, at 1 (Docket No. 6). For the following reasons, the Court GRANTS the Motion to Intervene.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) allows intervention of right by “anyone” who, “[o]n timely motion, ” “claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action, and is so situated that disposing of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede the movant's ability to protect its interest, unless existing parties adequately represent that interest.” This creates a four-part test for intervention of right: (1) the applicant's motion is timely; (2) the applicant has asserted an interest relating to the subject property or transaction; (3) the applicant's ability to protect that interest would, absent intervention, be impaired by disposition of the matter; and (4) the applicant's interest is not adequately represented by the existing parties. County of Orange v. Air Cal., 799 F.2d 535, 537 (9th Cir. 1986).

         As to factor one, timeliness, “three factors are weighed: (1) the stage of the proceeding at which an applicant seeks to intervene; (2) the prejudice to other parties; and (3) the reason for and length of the delay.” Id.

         As to factor two, an interest in the property or transaction, this “is a practical, threshold inquiry.” Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Berg, 268 F.3d 810, 818 (9th Cir. 2001). “No specific legal or equitable interest need be established. It is generally enough that the interest asserted is protectable under some law, and that there is a relationship between the legally protected interest and the claims at issue.” Id. (alteration, quotation, and citations omitted). “An applicant demonstrates a ‘significantly protectable interest' when the injunctive relief sought by the plaintiffs will have direct, immediate, and harmful effects upon a third party's legally protectable interests.” Id. (quotation omitted).

         As to factor three, impairment of interest, “if an absentee would be substantially affected in a practical sense by the determination made in an action, he should, as a general rule, be entitled to intervene.” Id. at 822 (alteration omitted) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 24 Advisory Comm. Notes).

         As to factor four, no adequate representation of interest, the “applicant-intervenor's burden . . . is minimal: it is sufficient to show that representation may be inadequate.” Forest Conservation Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 66 F.3d 1489, 1498 (9th Cir. 1995) (emphasis in original), abrogated on other grounds by Wilderness Soc. v. U.S. Forest Serv., 630 F.3d 1173 (9th Cir. 2011).

A non-party is adequately represented by existing parties if: (1) the interests of the existing parties are such that they would undoubtedly make all of the non-party's arguments; (2) the existing parties are capable of and willing to make such arguments; and (3) the non-party would offer no necessary element to the proceeding that existing parties would neglect.

Sw. Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Babbitt, 150 F.3d 1152, 1153-54 (9th Cir. 1998).

         ANALYSIS

         Proposed defendant-intervenors have made a sufficient showing as to each element of Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(a)(2)'s ...


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