United States District Court, D. Oregon
CASCADIA WILDLANDS, an Oregon nonprofit corporation; and OREGON WILD, an Oregon nonprofit corporation, Plaintiffs,
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, a federal agency, Defendant, and SENECA SAWMILL COMPANY, an Oregon corporation, Defendant-Intervenor.
OPINION AND ORDER
Michael McShane, United States District Judge
Cascadia Wildlands and Oregon Wild bring this action for
declaratory and injunctive relief under the Administrative
Procedure Act (“APA”), 5 U.S.C. §§ 701
et seq., alleging that Defendant-the United States
Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”)-violated (1)
the Federal Land Policy and Management Act
(“FLPMA”), 43 U.S.C. §§ 302 et
seq., by authorizing regeneration
harvesting in the Willamalane Non-Motorized Trails
Extensive Recreation Management Area; and (2) the National
Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 4321 et seq., and controlling
regulations by stating an unreasonably narrow purpose and
need, failing to consider reasonable and feasible
alternatives, and failing to take the requisite hard look at
the proposed action’s potential environment impacts.
Pls.’ Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1–2, ECF No. 2.
Plaintiffs allege that the timber harvest will increase fire
hazard levels to adjacent communities, degrade the
area’s scenic quality, and reduce recreational
opportunities. Pls.’ Mem. 3, 12–18, ECF No. 16.
Plaintiffs ask the Court to vacate and set aside the Decision
Record and remand the matter back to BLM. Pls.’ Compl.
18; Pls.’ Mot. 2, ECF No. 16. Plaintiffs, BLM, and
Defendant-Intervenor Seneca Sawmill Company
(“Seneca”) filed a Motion and Cross-Motions for
Summary Judgment on the claims in this case. ECF Nos. 16, 22,
BLM arbitrarily and capriciously failed to designate a
Recreation Management Zone and did not fully analyze and
publicly disclose the degree of fire hazard,
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is
GRANTED in part and Defendant and
Defendant-Intervenor’s Cross-Motions for Summary
Judgment (ECF Nos. 22 and 23) are DENIED in part. Because BLM
authorized the Pedal Power timber sale consistent with the
applicable management directives, adequately evaluated its
effects on targeted visitor activities, quality recreation,
and anticipated benefits, took a hard look at its potential
impact on recreational experiences, and adequately analyzed
reasonable alternatives, Defendant and Defendant-
Intervenor’s Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment (ECF
Nos. 22 and 23) are GRANTED in part and Plaintiff’s
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is DENIED in part.
conducted spatial analysis to identify and designate various
recreation areas near Oregon’s population centers under
its 2016 Northwestern and Coastal Oregon Record of Decision
and Resource Management Plan (“2016 RMP”).
Pls.’ Mem. 3–4. The 2016 RMP governs
approximately 1.3 million acres of land in the Coos Bay,
Eugene, Salem, and Roseburg Districts. Pls.’ Mem. 4.
BLM designated various Recreation Management Areas and
Extensive Recreation Management Areas to protect and enhance
recreation and scenery. Id. The 2016 RMP directs BLM
to manage these areas in accordance with “specific
planning frameworks, ” including recreation values,
types of visitors, objectives, actions, and allowable use
restrictions. Id. It also established five land
allocations, which overlap with Resource Management Areas.
Willamalane Parks and Recreation District acquired the
Thurston Hills Natural Area for preservation and development
of a hiking and biking trail. Pls.’ Mem. 5. They
formally collaborated with BLM, which manages land
immediately adjacent to the area, to collaborate on a
connected trail system. Id.; Def.’s Mem. 6,
ECF No. 22. BLM officially designated this 1, 058-acre area,
located in the Upper Willamette Resource Area of BLM’s
Northwest Oregon District within Springfield city limits, as
the Willamalane Non-Motorized Trails Extensive Recreation
Management Area (“Willamalane ERMA”). Pls.’
Mem. 1, 5; Def.’s Mem. 1.
Willamalane ERMA was intended for recreational development
consistent with the Willamalane Parks and Recreation
District’s goals to preserve views, enhance wildlife
habitat and sensitive areas, and provide recreation
opportunities. Pls.’ Mem. 6. Plaintiffs acknowledge
that the Willamalane ERMA was also designed to allow for
resource management and uses but argue that its designation
requires specific management consideration regarding
“recreational use, demand, visitor experiences and
related program investments.” Pls.’ Mem. 6.
Fifty-five percent of the Willamalane ERMA overlaps with
Harvest Land Base lands, which BLM manages for
sustained-yield timber production under the 2016 RMP and the
Oregon & California Revested Lands Act of 1937
(“O&C Act”), 42 U.S.C. §
2601. Pls.’ Mem. 6; Def.’s Mem.
1–2. According to Seneca, because the Harvest Land Base
land use allocation “implements a statutory mandate for
‘permanent forest production’ as a dominant use,
” the Harvest Land Base management direction always
controls. Def.-Intervenor’s Mot. 4, ECF No. 23 (citing
AR 11241 (explaining that Extensive Recreation Management
Area direction applies to the extent that it is consistent
with the underlying land use allocation’s management
early 2017, BLM began planning a proposal to develop a
non-motorized trails network and timber sale in the
Willamalane ERMA-the Thurston Hills Non-Motorized Trails and
Forest Management Project. Pls.’ Mem. 7; Def.’s
Mem. 2. BLM issued a public scoping notice for the Project in
March 2017. Pls.’ Mem. 8. Plaintiffs submitted comments
citing their concerns and recommendations. Pls.’ Mem.
8–9. In November 2017, BLM held an open house regarding
the proposal and solicited further public feedback.
Pls.’ Mem. 9; Def.’s Mem. 3. In April 2018, BLM
issued a Draft Environmental Assessment. Pls.’ Mem.
9–10. In May 2018, BLM issued a revised Final
Environmental Assessment, Finding of No. Significant Impact,
and Decision Record. Pls.’ Mem. 11–12;
Def.’s Mem. 3. BLM adopted Alternative 3, providing for
155 acres of regeneration timber harvest and 8.3 miles of
recreational trails. Def.-Intervenor’s Mot. 6.
the public, the Willamalane Parks and Recreation District,
the City of Springfield, and Congressman Peter DeFazio raised
concerns regarding regeneration logging, BLM withdrew its
initial Finding of No. Significant Impact and Decision Record
and issued modified versions in August 2018. Pls.’ Mem.
11–12; see Def.’s Mem. 4. BLM ultimately
adopted a modified Alternative 4, providing for 100 acres of
timber harvest and 8.5 miles of recreational trails and
increasing green tree retention from 10 to 15%.
Def.-Intervenor’s Mot. 7. Plaintiffs jointly filed a
protest letter and appeal with the Interior Board of Land
Appeals, which BLM denied on October 5, 2018. Pls.’
Mem. 12. On February 1, 2019, BLM awarded the Pedal Power
timber sale to Seneca. Pls.’ Mem. 12; Def.’s Mem.
6. Seneca intended to begin preparatory road work in June and
July 2019 and logging in mid-August 2019. Pls.’ Mem.
12, ECF No. 16; Def.’s Mem. 6. The process is expected
to last for two years, after which trail development (which
is expected to take five years to fund and construct) may
begin. Def.-Intervenor’s Mot. 7.
review of agency action is governed by the Administrative
Procedure Act (APA). 5 U.S.C. § 706. The reviewing court
must consider whether the decision was based on a
consideration of the relevant factors and whether there has
been a clear error of judgment. Although this inquiry into
the facts is to be searching and careful, the ultimate
standard of review is a narrow one. The court is not
empowered to substitute its judgment for that of the agency.
Citizens to Preserve Overton Park, Inc. v. Volpe,
401 U.S. 402, 416 (1971) (citations omitted), abrogated
on other grounds by Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99, 97
(1977). Agency decisions are “entitled to a presumption
of regularity.” Id. at 415. While such review
is deferential to the agency action taken, the court must not
“rubber-stamp” the agency action as correct.
Lands Council v. Martin, 529 F.3d 1219, 1225 (9th
Cir. 2008); N. Spotted Owl (Strix Occidentalis Caurina)
v. Hodel, 716 F.Supp. 479, 482 (W.D. Wash. 1988).
may set aside an agency’s action if the action is
“arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or
otherwise not in accordance with law, ” or
“without observance of procedure required by
law.” 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A) and (D). “[I]f an
agency ‘fails to consider an important aspect of a
problem . . . [or] offers an explanation for the decision
that is contrary to the evidence, ’ its action is
arbitrary and capricious.” Or. Natural Res. Council
Fund v. Goodman, 505 F.3d 884, 888–89 (9th Cir.
2007) (quoting Lands Council v. Powell, 395 F.3d
1019, 1026 (9th Cir. 2005)). “An agency action is also
arbitrary and capricious if the agency fails to
‘articulate a satisfactory explanation for its action
including a “rational connection between the facts
found and the choice made.’” Friends of Wild
Swan, Inc. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 12
F.Supp.2d 1121, 1131 (D. Or. 1997) (quoting Motor Vehicle
Mfrs. Ass'n of U.S., Inc. v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins.
Co., 463 U.S. 29, 43 (1983)).
this Court’s review under the APA is generally limited
to the administrative record, see infra, no facts
are in dispute. However, the parties have filed a Motion and
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment, which may be used as
vehicles for the Court to conduct its review of the record.
Therefore, the Court’s role is “to determine
whether or not as a matter of law the evidence in the
administrative record permitted the agency to make the
decision it did.” Occidental Eng'g Co. v.
INS, 753 F.2d 766, 769 (9th Cir. 1985).
Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”),
43 U.S.C. §§ 1701 et seq., requires BLM to
prepare Resource Management Plans for its districts. 43
U.S.C. § 1712. BLM must ensure that site-specific
actions conform to the governing Resource Management Plan. 43
U.S.C. § 1732(a); 43 C.F.R. § 1601.0-5(b) (defining
“conformance” as “specifically provided for
in the plan” or “clearly consistent with the
terms, conditions, and decisions of the approved plan or plan
amendment.”); 43 C.F.R. § 1610.5-3(a); Ore.
Natural Resources Council v. Brong, 492 F.3d 1120, 1125
(9th Cir. 2007). The Resource Management Plan governing the
Project at issue is the 2016 RMP. Pls.’ Mem. 9; AR
generally requires BLM to manage lands “on the basis of
multiple use and sustained yield unless otherwise specified
by law” and to protect a wide range of natural resource
values. See, e.g., 43 U.S.C. §
1701(a)(7); see generally Id . §§
1701–1782. FLPMA provides an exception for O&C
Notwithstanding any provision of this Act, in the event of
conflict with or inconsistency between this Act and the Acts
of August 28, 1937 (50 Stat. 874; 43 U.S.C. §
1181a-1181j), and May 24, 1939 (53 Stat. 753), insofar as
they relate to management of timber resources, and