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Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Ilano

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

December 18, 2018, Argued and Submitted, San Francisco, California; June 24, 2019, Filed

No. 17-16760

Opinion

 [*777]  NGUYEN, Circuit Judge:

In 2014, Congress amended the Healthy Forests Restoration Act ("HFRA") to allow the United States Forest Service greater flexibility in managing the health of forest lands threatened by insect and disease infestation. The Forest Service identified large swaths of lands in California, including lands within the Tahoe National Forest, as insect-infested and diseased areas under the HFRA. In 2016, the Forest Service approved the Sunny South Project, which aimed to address spreading pine-beetle infestation in previously designated at-risk areas within the Tahoe National Forest.

Two environmental groups, the Center for Biological Diversity and Earth Island Institute, filed suit, challenging both the Forest Service's designation of at-risk forest lands and its approval of the Sunny South Project on the ground that the agency's actions violated the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Forest Service. We affirm.

 [**4] I.

BACKGROUND

A. National Environmental Policy Act

] "NEPA mandates the preparation of an [environmental impact statement ('EIS')] for 'every recommendation or report on proposals for . . . major Federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment.'" Friends of Se.'s Future v. Morrison, 153 F.3d 1059, 1062 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 4332(C)). The federal agency concerned must "prepare an [environmental assessment ('EA')] to determine whether a proposed federal action will have a significant impact and to determine whether preparation of an EIS will be necessary." Native Ecosystems Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 428 F.3d 1233, 1238-39 (9th Cir. 2005). Under NEPA, agencies must take a "'hard look' at environmental consequences." Robertson v. Methow Valley Citizens Council, 490 U.S. 332, 350, 109 S. Ct. 1835, 104 L. Ed. 2d 351 (1989) (quoting Kleppe v. Sierra Club, 427 U.S. 390, 410 n.21, 96 S. Ct. 2718, 49 L. Ed. 2d 576 (1976)). NEPA "does not mandate particular results, but simply prescribes the necessary process." Id. Some actions, however, are categorically excepted or excluded from NEPA's procedural requirements. See, e.g., Douglas County v. Babbitt, 48 F.3d 1495, 1502 n.7 (9th Cir. 1995) (referencing categorical exceptions from NEPA compliance for actions under the Clean Air Act and permits under the Marine Mammal Protection Act).

B. Healthy Forests Restoration Act

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928 F.3d 774 *; 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 18717 **; 49 ELR 20110; 86 ERC (BNA) 6935; 2019 WL 2571434

CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY; EARTH ISLAND INSTITUTE, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. ELI ILANO; THOMAS TIDWELL; UNITED STATES FOREST SERVICE, Defendants-Appellees, SIERRA PACIFIC INDUSTRIES, Intervenor-Defendant-Appellee.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. D.C. No. 2:16-cv-02322-VC. Vince Chhabria, District Judge, Presiding.

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

Forest, designation, landscape-scale, categorically, species, environmental, infestation, insect, extraordinary circumstances, disease, national forest, projects, prepare, owls, spotted owl, compliance, habitat, environmental effect, potential effect, proposed action, declining, effects, acres

Business & Corporate Compliance, Environmental Law, Assessment & Information Access, Environmental Impact Statements, Environmental Law, Natural Resources & Public Lands, National Environmental Policy Act, Forest Management, Assessment & Information Access, Environmental Assessments, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Standards of Review, Formal Adjudicatory Procedure, Hearings, Evidence