Reversing a district court decision, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a 2007 U.S. Forest Service (Service) travel management plan that limited recreational motorized and non-motorized travel on 1.1 million acres of the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana. Russell Country Sportsmen v. U.S. Forest Serv., No. 10-35623 (9th Cir. 10/12/11). The district court had granted summary judgment to plaintiffs, ruling that the Montana Wilderness Study Act (Act) not only prohibited the Service from degrading the wilderness character of the area but also prohibited it from enhancing the area’s wilderness character.
The appeals court disagreed, finding “nothing in the . . . Act . . . prohibits the Service from exercising its discretion to enhance the wilderness character” of the area. The court also held that the National Environmental Policy Act does not require the Service to prepare a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (EIS ) where “the final decision makes only minor changes and is qualitatively within the spectrum of the alternatives discussed in the draft EIS .”