Thank You For Submiting Feedback!
In deciding whether an agency's decision is, or is not, ripe for judicial review, the court examines both the fitness of the issues for judicial decision and the hardship to the parties of withholding court consideration. To do so, the court must consider: (1) whether delayed review would cause hardship to the plaintiffs; (2) whether judicial intervention would inappropriately interfere with further administrative action; and (3) whether the courts would benefit from further factual development of the issues presented.
Pursuant to the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (16 USCS 1601-1614) (NFMA), the United States Forest Service was required to develop land and resource management plans for units of the National Forest System. However, in order to authorize any specific logging project, the Forest Service was required, under certain NFMA provisions and regulations, to (1) propose a specific area and the harvesting method to be used, (2) insure that the project was consistent with the land and resource management plan, (3) provide those affected with notice and an opportunity to be heard, (4) conduct an environmental analysis to evaluate the project and to contemplate alternatives, and (5) make a final decision which could be challenged in an administrative appeal and in court. In 1988, the Forest Service adopted a 10-year plan for a 178,000-acre national forest in Ohio. The plan (1) designated 126,000 acres of the forest as areas from which timber could be cut; and (2) projected, based on a ceiling for the total amount of wood that could be cut, that (a) there would be logging on about 8,000 acres, and (b) there would be clearcutting or other forms of "even-aged" tree harvesting on 5,000 of the 8,000 acres. In 1992, after the Forest Service rejected attempts by two environmental advocacy organizations to modify the plan on administrative review, the organizations filed an action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against the Forest Service. The organizations alleged that the plan's provisions for logging and clearcutting violated the NFMA and other laws. The District Court, determining that the Forest Service had acted lawfully, granted the Forest Service's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, reversing and remanding, ruled that (1) the action was justiciable, and (2) the plan improperly favored clearcutting and therefore violated the NFMA. Certiorari was granted.
Did the dispute about the plan present a justiciable controversy?
The Court held that the organizations' action was not justiciable, as the dispute between the organizations and the Forest Service was not ripe for court review, because delayed judicial review would not cause significant hardship to the parties, and immediate judicial intervention could hinder the Forest Service's efforts to refine its policies through both revision of the plan and application of the plan in practice. Moreover, the courts would benefit from further factual development of the issues presented, and Congress had not provided for pre-implementation judicial review of forest plans.