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Norton v. S. Utah Wilderness Alliance

Supreme Court of the United States

March 29, 2004, Argued ; June 14, 2004, Decided

No. 03-101

Opinion

 [*57]  [**2376]   Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A] LEdHN[2A][] [2A] LEdHN[3A][] [3A] In this case, we must decide whether the authority of a federal court under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to "compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed," 5 U.S.C. § 706(1) [5 USCS § 706(1)], extends to the review of the United States Bureau of Land Management's stewardship of  [*58]  public lands under certain statutory provisions and its own planning documents.

LEdHN[4][] [4] Almost half the State of Utah, about 23 million acres, is federal land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the Department of Interior. For nearly [****6]  30 years, BLM's management of public lands has been governed by the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), 90 Stat 2744, 43 U.S.C. § 1701 et seq. [43 USCS §§ 1701 et seq.], which "established a policy in favor of retaining public lands for multiple use management." Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 877, 111 L. Ed. 2d 695, 110 S. Ct. 3177 (1990). "Multiple use management" is a deceptively simple term that describes the enormously complicated task of striking a balance among the many competing uses to which land can be put, "including, but not limited to, recreation, range, timber, minerals, watershed, wildlife and fish, and [uses serving] natural scenic, scientific and historical values." 43 U.S.C. § 1702(c) [43 USCS § 1702(c)]. A second management goal, "sustained yield," requires BLM to control depleting uses over time, so as to ensure a high level of valuable uses in the future. § 1702(h). To  [***147]  these ends, FLPMA establishes a dual regime of inventory and planning. Sections 1711 and 1712, respectively, provide for a comprehensive, ongoing inventory of federal lands, and for a land use planning process that "project[s]" "present and future use," § 1701(a)(2), [****7]  given the lands' inventoried characteristics.

Of course not all uses are compatible. Congress made the judgment that some lands should be set aside as wilderness at the expense of commercial and recreational uses. A pre-FLPMA enactment, the Wilderness Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 890, provides that designated wilderness areas, subject to certain exceptions, "shall [have] no commercial enterprise and no permanent road," no motorized vehicles, and no manmade structures. 16 U.S.C. § 1133(c) [16 USCS § 1133(c)]. The designation of a wilderness  [*59]  area can be made only by Act of Congress, see 43 U.S.C. § 1782(b) [43 USCS § 1782(b)].

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542 U.S. 55 *; 124 S. Ct. 2373 **; 159 L. Ed. 2d 137 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 4379 ****; 72 U.S.L.W. 4472; 34 ELR 20034; 17 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 370

GALE NORTON, SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, et al., Petitioners v. SOUTHERN UTAH WILDERNESS ALLIANCE et al.

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE TENTH CIRCUIT.

S. Utah Wilderness Alliance v. Norton, 301 F.3d 1217, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 17900 (10th Cir. Utah, 2002)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

agency's action, land use plan, wilderness, plans, regulations, designation, monitoring, failure to act, discrete, manage, environmental, public land, supervision, resources, management plan, compliance, recreation, decisions, resource management, supplementation, courts, unlawfully withheld, authorizations, nonimpairment, projected, decree

Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, Standing, Civil Procedure, Judgments, Relief From Judgments, General Overview, Environmental Law, Administrative Proceedings & Litigation, Judicial Review, Reviewable Agency Action, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Remedies, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Natural Resources & Public Lands, Federal Land Management, Real Property Law, Inverse Condemnation, Regulatory Takings, Business & Corporate Compliance, Real Property Law, Zoning, Administrative Procedure, Public Lands, Federal Government, Property, Environmental Law, Assessment & Information Access, Environmental Impact Statements, Claims By & Against, National Environmental Policy Act