Case No. 94-cv-4061-JPG UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS Sierra Club v. U.S. Dep't of Agric.
Decided Mar 5, 2013
Case No. 94-cv-4061-JPG 03-05-2013 SIERRA CLUB and REGIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CONCERNED ENVIRONMENTALISTS, Plaintiffs, and AUDUBON COUNCIL OF ILLINOIS, Intervenor, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, TOM VILSACK, Secretary of Agriculture, UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, TOM TIDWELL, Chief of United States Forest Service, LOGAN LEE, Acting Regional Forester, ALLEN NICHOLAS, Shawnee National Forest Supervisor, Defendants.
This case involves the United States Forest Service's ("Forest Service") plans for managing the Shawnee National Forest ("Forest") over the ten to fifteen years following the *2 decision to adopt a formal plan. The Court has previously explained the background of the Forest and its management planning:
This matter comes before the Court on the defendants' Notice of Compliance and Motion to Dissolve Injunction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(5) (Doc. 81). Plaintiff Regional Association of Concerned Environmentalists ("RACE") and Intervenor Audubon Council of Illinois ("Audubon Council") (collectively, "the plaintiffs") have jointly responded in opposition to the motion (Doc. 92), and the defendants have replied to that response (Doc. 93). The Court held oral argument on the motion on February 16, 2012.
The plaintiffs originally filed this action in April 1994 to challenge two records of decision issued in 1992 by the Forest Service regarding the Forest. One of these decisions related to the Forest Service's adoption of an Amended Land and Resource Management Plan ("1992 Forest Plan") for the Forest. The other related to the Forest Service's decision to allow oil and gas leasing within the Forest. The plaintiffs sought judicial review of those decisions under the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., which allows the Court to overturn agency actions if they are "(A) arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law; . . . [or] (C) in excess of statutory jurisdiction, authority, or limitations, or short of statutory right . . . ." 5 U.S.C. §
B. Injunctive Relief Subsequently, on March 20, 1996, the Court granted in part and denied in part the plaintiffs' motion for injunctive relief (Doc. 65) and permanently enjoined: (1) timber cutting for commercial purposes, (2) ATV/OHM use except for state or federal administrative or emergency purposes or by people with disabilities, and (3) surface-disturbing activities like oil and gas leasing activities (Doc. 66). The Court declined to enjoin (1) openland management, (2) ecological restoration timber cutting, and (3) all other projects to which the plaintiffs did not object and all day-to-day forest management activities. The injunction allowed the Forest Service to use the vacated 1992 Forest Plan to the extent it was not inconsistent with the Court's rulings. It further stated, "This injunction shall remain in force and effect until such time as the Forest Service issues new or revised planning documents in a manner consistent with this Court's findings." Perm. Inj. at 4 (Doc. 66).
B. Continued Enforcement of Injunction in Light of Changed Circumstances Even if the Forest Service had not satisfied the Court's injunction, the Court would find it no longer equitable to enforce the injunction.
Additionally, the Court believes the public interest is served by relieving the parties of the 1996 injunction. While the plaintiffs are right that the public is entitled to informed decisionmaking after consideration of the environmental impacts of federal action, they may ensure that by appealing the 2006 Forest Plan through the administrative process. However, the public also has an interest in the appropriate management of public forests based on decisions made by those with forestplanning expertise. Until the 2006 Forest Plan is found to be lacking under the APA for some reason, it is a valid plan, and the public is entitled to the benefits it may bring to the Forest. On a similar note, the Court found that the 1992 Forest Plan could not be implemented in full because it did not comply with laws related to forest planning. The Forest is no longer being managed under the 1992 Forest Plan (Alternative 1 was not selected as the preferred alternative in the 2006 FEIS), which was superseded by the 2006 Forest Plan. Thus, the violations of federal law identified by the Court in 1995 - inadequate analysis prior to implementation of the 1992 Forest Plan - are no longer ongoing and no longer need to be enjoined. The goals of the 1996 injunction have been achieved - the inadequately supported parts of the 1992 Forest Plan are not being implemented.
Unless and until the NEPA process leading to the 2006 Forest Plan is determined to be inadequate and that plan is vacated in whole or in part, the Court will not enforce its 1996 injunction to prevent application of the new plan. In sum, the Forest Service has carried its burden of demonstrating a significant change in factual circumstances warranting a change in the injunction. Furthermore, the change it proposes - dissolving the injunction - is suitably tailored in light of the new forest plan, the new supporting documents, and the new opportunity to seek appropriate injunctive relief in a new *35 proceeding that can directly address the alleged shortcomings of the 2006 Forest Plan. 35
VI. Conclusion For the foregoing reasons, the Court finds that applying the permanent injunction issued March 20, 1996 (Doc. 66) is no longer equitable and, pursuant to the last clause of Rule 60(b)(5), exercises its discretion to DISSOLVE that injunction.
IT IS SO ORDERED. _______________ J. PHIL GILBERT DISTRICT JUDGE