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American Forest Resource Council v. Jewell

United States District Court, D. Columbia

September 28, 2015

AMERICAN FOREST RESOURCE COUNCIL, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SALLY JEWELL, Defendant

Page 44

          For AMERICAN FOREST RESOURCE COUNCIL, CARPENTERS INDUSTRIAL COUNCIL, DOUGLAS TIMBER OPERATORS, INC., C & D LUMBER CO., FRERES LUMBER CO., INC, SENECA SAWMILL COMPANY, STARFIRE LUMBER CO., INC., SWANSON GROUP MFG, LLC, Plaintiffs: Mark C. Rutzick, LEAD ATTORNEY, MARK C. RUTZICK, INCORPORATED, Oak Hill, VA.

         For SALLY JEWELL, Secretary, Department of the Interior, Defendant: Paul David Barker, Jr., LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Land & Natural Resources Division, Washington, DC; Stuart Campbell Gillespie, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC.

Page 45

         MEMORANDUM OPINION [Dkts. ## 16, 19]

         RICHARD J. LEON, United States District Judge.

         Before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment by plaintiffs and defendant. Pls.' Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt # 16 (" Pls.' Mot." ), Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J. [Dkt. # 19] (" Def.'s Mot." ). In these motions, the parties dispute the lawfulness of the Bureau of Land Management's (" BLM" ) decisions in May and June 1995 adopting Resource Management Plans (" 1995 RMPs" ) for six BLM districts in Western Oregon. Upon due consideration of the parties' pleadings, the relevant law, and the entire record herein, I find that plaintiffs lack standing to bring this suit and, accordingly, plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. # 16] is DENIED, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. # 19] is GRANTED, and the case is DISMISSED.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs brought suit against the Secretary of Interior challenging BLM's approval of the 1995 RMPs that placed more than 70 percent of all lands subject to the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act of 1937 (" O& C Act" ), 43U.S.C.§ 1181a, into reserve classifications where no sustained yield timber harvest is permitted. See Compl. ¶ ¶ 34-37, No. 14-368 [Dkt. # 1]. Plaintiffs allege violations of O& C Act, 43 U.S.C. § 1181a, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA), 43 U.S.C.A. § 1701 Savings Provision, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § § 701-706. See Compl. ¶ 1.

         This case is one of three separate actions currently before the Court, at the summary judgment stage, involving challenges related to timber sales in the Pacific Northwest and habitat for the northern spotted owl. See Carpenters Industrial Council, et al. v. Jewell, et al., No. 13-361 (filed on March 21, 2013) (" CIC v. Jewell " ); [1] Swanson Group Mfg., LLC, et al. v. Director, Bureau of Land Management, No. 14-211 (filed on Feb. 13, 2014) (" Swanson v. BLM' or " Swanson II '); American Forest Resource Council, et al. v. Jewell, No. 14-368 (filed on March 7, 2014) (" AFRC v. Jewell " ).[2] Prior to commencing these three actions, many of the same plaintiffs brought suit in Swanson Group Mfg., LLC, et al. v. Salazar, et al., No. 10-1843 (filed on Oct. 29, 2010) (" Swanson I " ).[3] In Swanson I, I granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and found two federal agency actions to be unlawful: (1) the failure to offer for sale a declared amount of timber from two

Page 46

western Oregon districts, and (2) the development and use of an Owl Estimation Methodology. See Order and Mem. Op., No. 10-1843 [Dkts. ## 58, 59]. Defendants appealed that decision to our Circuit Court, which vacated the summary judgment ruling on the grounds that the plaintiffs in that case lacked standing, and, therefore, their challenges to agency actions must be dismissed. See Swanson Grp. Mfg. LLC v. Jewell, 790 F.3d 235, 238 (D.C. Cir. 2015).

         In light of the standing decision in Swanson I and the significant overlap between the plaintiffs in that case and the three above-referenced actions, I ordered the parties in these three cases to show cause in writing why the cases should not also be dismissed for lack of standing. See Order to Show Cause, CIC v. Jewell, No. 13-361 [Dkt. # 82]; Swanson II, No. 14-211 [Dkt. # 28]; AFRC v. Jewell, No. 14-368 [Dkt. # 30]. In response to the show cause orders, plaintiffs in each of the three actions filed briefs accompanied by ten new declarations. See CIC v. Jewell, No. 13-361 [Dkts. ## 84-1-84-11][4]; Swanson II, No. 14-211 [Dkts. ## 30-1-30-11]; AFRC v. Jewell, No. 14-368 [Dkt. # 32-1-32-11]. Defendants then filed a response in each of the three cases. See CIC v. Jewell, No. 13-361 [Dkts. ## 88, 90]; Swanson II, No. 14-211 [Dkt.#31]; AFRC v. Jewell, No. 14-368 [Dkt. # 33].

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the pleadings and the record demonstrate that " there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In this case, where cross-motions for summary judgment are at issue, the Court draws all reasonable inferences regarding the assertions made in a light favorable to the non-moving party. Union Neighbors United, Inc. v. Jewell, 83 F.Supp.3d 280, 285 (D.D.C. 2015). The Court will " grant summary judgment only if one of the moving parties is entitled to judgment as a matter of law upon material facts that are not genuinely disputed." Select Specialty Hosp. - Bloomington, Inc. v. Sebelius, 774 F.Supp.2d 332, 338 (D.D.C. 2011).

         ANALYSIS

         " Article III of the Constitution confines the jurisdiction of the federal courts to actual 'Cases' and 'Controversies,' and . . . 'the doctrine of standing serves to identify those disputes which are appropriately resolved through the judicial process." ' Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S. 417, 429-30, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998) (quoting Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149, 155, 110 S.Ct. 1717, 109 L.Ed.2d 135 (1990)). Plaintiffs bear the burden of demonstrating they have standing to pursue their claims. SeeLujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 561, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). " [T]he irreducible constitutional minimum of standing" requires " [1] an injury in fact ... which is (a) concrete and particularized, and (b) actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical, . . . [2] a causal ...


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