the only absolute shield against private exploitation of these federal lands. It is true, as defendants contend, that the classification terminations and withdrawal revocations do not immediately open the lands to mining and mineral leasing. They merely trigger the operation of certain discretionary land laws. Yet, as defendants also concede, some of the backup safeguards are optional. For example, the Secretary may choose whether or not to prepare an environmental impact assessment or statement. Transcript of September 16 Hearing at 54, 58. Moreover, neither the statutes nor the regulations can prohibit all development; they can only regulate its process.
If defendants have improperly terminated classifications or withdrawals to begin with, any allowance of mining or leasing can cause irreparable harm. Such activity can permanently destroy wildlife habitat, air and water quality, natural beauty and other environmental values. Defendants' suggestion that plaintiff's members can still hike, fish and otherwise enjoy these lands ignores both aesthetic interests and the process whereby a holder of a mining claim can gain the right to exclusive possession. Similarly, defendants' calculations limiting the acres that have actually been leased or mined
demonstrates nothing about the future impact of their actions. Without the preliminary injunction, defendants' termination of classifications and withdrawals could lead to the permanent loss of lands to public use and enjoyment -- an injury we feel would be irreparable.
C. Harm to Interested Parties
While we acknowledge that the preliminary injunction would harm third parties, we do not view this injury as so serious as to outweigh the other factors supporting the injunction. The preliminary injunction would bar present holders of mining claims and mineral leases from developing their interests. To the extent they have made investments in obtaining their claims or leases or in beginning development, the delay in their investment return would represent financial injury. However, the preliminary injunction alone would not sever these parties' interests. If defendants prevail on the merits, it would only delay their realization. Furthermore, the injunction is not likely to reduce the ultimate value of the ore to be mined.
D. The Public Interest
The public interest clearly favors granting the preliminary injunction. In section 102 of the FLPMA, Congress declared "it is the policy of the United States that -- (1) the public lands be retained in Federal ownership, unless as a result of the land use planning procedure provided for in this Act, it is determined that disposal of a particular parcel will serve the national interest." 43 U.S C. § 1701(a)(1). This statement of policy, which provides the basis for plaintiff's claims for relief, underscores the public interest in ensuring orderly procedures for removing certain federal controls over government-owned lands. If defendants have violated the FLPMA in the process of terminating classifications and revoking withdrawals, the preliminary injunction will protect against further illegal actions pending resolution of the merits.
Furthermore, the preliminary injunction would serve the public by protecting the environment from any threat of permanent damage. Defendants' scenario of administrative havoc invokes a limited version of the public interest. While granting the preliminary injunction would inconvenience defendants and those parties holding specific interests in the lands at issue, denying the motion could ruin some of the country's great environmental resources -- and not just for now but for generations to come.
For these reasons, we grant the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.
Orders consistent with the foregoing have been entered this day.
Date: December 4, 1985
ORDER -- December 4, 1985, Filed
Upon consideration of plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction, defendants' opposition thereto and plaintiff's reply, and
Finding that a preliminary injunction is necessary to preserve the relative positions of the parties until this case can be decided on the merits, and further
Finding that the plaintiff has shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits, and further
Finding that plaintiff will suffer irreparable harm if the requested injunction is not issued, and further
Finding that issuance of the requested injunction would serve the public interest, it is by the court this 4th day of December, 1985
ORDERED that plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction is granted, and it is
ORDERED that as used in this order, the terms "public Federal Land Policy and Management Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1702(e), (j), and it is
ORDERED that the defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, and attorneys, and those persons in active concert or participation with them are hereby enjoined from:
1. Modifying, terminating or altering any withdrawal, classification, or other designation governing the protection of lands in the public domain that was in effect on January 1, 1981, or
2. Taking any action inconsistent with any withdrawal, classification, or other designation governing the protection of lands in the public domain that was in effect on January 1, 1981, including, but not limited to, the issuance of leases, the sale, exchange or disposal of land or interests in land, the grant of rights-of-way, or the approval of any plan of operations; and it is
ORDERED that all persons holding interests, including but not limited to, ownership, possession, mining claims and their development, leases and rights-of-way, in lands that were the subject of classification terminations or withdrawal revocations since January 1, 1981 are hereby enjoined from taking any action inconsistent with the present status quo of these lands, including but not limited to, the staking of additional mining claims, obtaining new leases, mining, timber removal, land clearing, construction, or other forms of development; and it is
ORDERED that the defendants shall forthwith cause a copy of this order to be published in the Federal Register and posted and made available to the public in defendants' offices in any state where this order might affect any person; and it is
ORDERED that pursuant to Rule 65(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, plaintiff shall post security for this injunction in the amount of one hundred ($ 100.00) dollars, and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that a status call is scheduled for Monday, January 6, 1986 at 9:30 a.m., Courtroom No. 12, United States Courthouse.
ORDER - December 4, 1985, Filed
Upon consideration of the motion to intervene of Chairman John F. Seiberling of the House Committee on Public Lands, the response thereto, and the record herein, it is by the court this 4th day of December, 1985,
ORDERED that the motion to intervene of Congressman Seiberling be and the same hereby is granted.
ORDER - December 4, 1985, Filed
Upon consideration of defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to join indispensible parties and for lack of standing, plaintiff's opposition and defendants' reply and upon hearing the parties on September 16, 1985, it is by the court this 4th day of December, 1985,
ORDERED that defendants' motion to dismiss is hereby denied.