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GREATER YELLOWSTONE COALITION v. BOSWORTH

December 18, 2001

GREATER YELLOWSTONE COALITION ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
DALE BOSWORTH, CHIEF, U.S. FOREST SERVICE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Urbina, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DENYING THE DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER

I. INTRODUCTION

II. BACKGROUND

The remnants of the bison herds that once roamed the Western United States exist today in Yellowstone National Park. See id. ¶¶ 20-21. Because bison carry a bacteria that causes a contagious disease among cattle, the National Park Service, the Forest Service, and the State of Montana capture and kill bison roaming on national forest land used for private cattle grazing, such as the HBA. See id. ¶¶ 21-22. On December 19, 2000, the Forest Service allegedly renewed a private cattle owner's grazing permit for the HBA for an additional 10 years without first assessing the environmental impact of this extension. See Compl. ¶ 37.

The treatment of bison on HBA provides the background for this lawsuit which involves more directly statutory construction, grazing permits, NEPA, and the Rescissions Act. The plaintiffs filed a complaint in this court on July 11, 2001, pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act, alleging that the "Forest Service's failure to conduct any environmental analysis of the HBA before renewing the grazing permit for the allotment violates NEPA and is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law." Compl. ¶¶ 44-46. The plaintiffs also claim that the "Forest Service's failure to adhere to its NEPA compliance schedule for the HBA violates the Rescissions Act and is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in accordance with law." Id. ¶¶ 39-42.

The plaintiffs consist of the following conservation groups: Greater Yellowstone Coalition, headquartered in Montana; Intertribal Bison Cooperative, headquartered in South Dakota; Defenders of Wildlife, headquartered in the District of Columbia; National Wildlife Federation, headquartered in Reston, Virginia with offices in the District of Columbia and Montana; Wyoming Wildlife Federation, headquartered in Wyoming; and Gallatin Wildlife Association, headquartered in Montana. See Compl. ¶¶ 2-7. The plaintiffs' complaint names three defendants: Dale Bosworth, in his official capacity as Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, residing in Washington, D.C., U.S. Department of Agriculture; Rich Inman, in his official capacity as Acting Forest Supervisor of the Gallatin National Forest, residing in Bozeman, Montana; and Gary L. Benes, in his official capacity as a District Ranger of the Hebgen Lake Ranger District of the Gallatin National Forest, residing in West Yellowstone, Montana. See id. ¶¶ 10-13.

The Forest Service reissued the grazing permit for an additional 10 years pursuant to section 504(b) of the Rescissions Act, postponing the NEPA analysis of the HBA to 2004. See id. ¶ 38. According to declarations submitted by both parties, the decision to reissue the permit, along with adjustment to the analysis schedule, was made by officials in Washington, D.C. and officials at the Gallatin National Forest in Montana. See generally Inman Decl.; Trevino Decl.*fn2

In her declaration, Karen Kovacs Trevino explains that, from July 1998 to November 2000, she served as the Senior Counselor to the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for the Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and from November 2000 to May 2001, she was a Special Assistant to the Director of the National Park Service. See Trevino Decl. ¶ 1. In the late fall of 2000, Ms. Trevino was involved in discussions with Department of Interior officials and U.S. Forest Service officials in Washington, D.C. concerning the impact of the HBA grazing permit on the Yellowstone National Park's bison herd. See id. ¶ 2. Three of the meetings addressing the HBA grazing permit occurred at the Forest Service's headquarters in Washington, D.C. See id. ¶ 6.

The defendants have moved to transfer venue to the District of Montana, specifically to United States District Judge Charles C. Lovell. The plaintiffs oppose the defendants' motion, asserting that this is a case requiring statutory interpretation and thus involves national, not merely local, concerns.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Motion to Transfer Venue

Section 1404(a) provides that for the "convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." See 28 U.S.C. ยง 1404(a). As the moving party, the defendant bears the burden of establishing that the transfer of this action is proper. See Air Line Pilots Ass'n v. Eastern Air Lines, 672 F. Supp. 525, 526 (D.C. 1987). Courts have discretion to adjudicate motions to transfer according to case-by-case considerations of both convenience and fairness. See Stewart Org., Inc. v. ...


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