Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

American Forest Resource Council v. Steed

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 31, 2019

AMERICAN FOREST RESOURCE COUNCIL, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
BRIAN STEED, et al.,, Defendants. ASSOCIATION OFO&C COUNTIES, Plaintiff,
v.
BRIAN STEED, et al., Defendants. ASSOCIATION OF O&C COUNTIES, Plaintiff,
v.
DONALD J. TRUMP, et al., Defendants, SODA MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS COUNCIL, et al., Defendant-Intervenors. AMERICAN FOREST RESOURCE COUNCIL, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants, SODA MOUNTAIN WILDERNESS COUNCIL, et al, Defendant-Intervenors.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION [DKT. ##29, 30, 41 (IN NO. 16-1599); 17, 18 (IN NO. 16-1602); 41, 44, 46 (IN NO. 17-280); 41, 44, 46 (IN NO. 17-441)]

          Richard J. Leon United States District Judge.

         Each of the four above-captioned civil actions involve a challenge to the management by the United States of America (the "Government" or the "United States") of certain land subject to the Oregon and California Railroad and Coos Bay Wagon Road Grant Lands Act of 1937 ("O&C Act"), 43 U.S.C. § 2601 et seq., a statute that regulates timber harvest on certain federal land in western Oregon ("O&C land"). In 2016, the Bureau of Land Management ("BLM") issued two Resource Management Plans ("the 2016 RMPs") that divided O&C land into six categories. The extent to which timber harvest is permitted on O&C land under the 2016 RMPs depends on the category to which a given parcel of land is assigned. On January 12, 2017, President Obama, shortly before he left office, issued a proclamation ("Proclamation 9564") that enlarged the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in southern Oregon. See Proclamation 9564, 82 Fed. Reg. 6145 (Jan. 18, 2017). Nearly 40, 000 acres of the newly added land is O&C land, and commercial timber harvest, as a result of the monument designation, is effectively no longer possible on this land that falls squarely within the monument's boundaries. See Proclamation 7318, 65 Fed. Reg. 37, 249, 37, 250 (June 13, 2000).

         Plaintiffs in these cases[1] argue that the 2016 RMPs and Proclamation 9564 conflict with existing timber harvest mandates in the O&C Act. They moved for summary judgment, asking that the plans and proclamation be set aside. The Government cross-moved, adopting a different reading of the O&C Act, and seeking summary judgment that the 2016 RJVIPs and Proclamation 9564 are lawful. Three groups intervened in Case Numbers 17-280 and 17-441 to defend Proclamation 9564, and they filed their own cross-motions for summary judgment, which, like the others, turn on the scope of Congressional directives in the O&C Act.

         Upon careful consideration of the parties' briefs, the relevant law, and the entire record, I have determined that the best course at this juncture is to DENY all pending summary judgment motions without prejudice and to REMAND this matter to BLM for an explanation of how, if at all, the administration of O&C land changed after President Obama issued Proclamation 9564 that removed approximately 16, 000 acres of land from the "harvest land base" category of the O&C land, which was designated by BLM for continual timber production.[2] The parties can then refile summary judgment motions taking into account the completed administrative and summary judgment records.

         BACKGROUND

         I. The O&C Act

         The O&C Act governs BLM's management of approximately two million acres of land in western Oregon that was granted to the Oregon and California Railroad in 1866 but revested to the United States after the railroad violated conditions Congress had placed on the land grant. See Oregon & C.R. Co. v. United States, 238 U.S. 393, 399-410 (1915) (recounting the history of the land grant and revestment); Clackamas Cty. v. McKay, 219 F.2d 479, 481-83 (D.C. Cir. 1954) (same), vacated as moot, 349 U.S. 909 (1955). Beginning in the early 1900s, Congress enacted a series of statutes prescribing how the revested land should be managed. One such statute, the O&C Act, was passed in 1937 and regulates, among other things, timber harvest on O&C land. See 43 U.S.C. § 2601.

         Of particular relevance here, the Act requires that O&C timberland be "managed ... for permanent forest production" and that O&C timber "be sold, cut, and removed in conformity with the princip[le] of sustained yield." 43 U.S.C. § 2601. To facilitate the harvest and sale, BLM must declare an "annual productive capacity," id., also known as an allowable sales quantity ("ASQ"), [3] for O&C timberland. A commensurate amount of timber must then be sold from O&C land each year. See id.

         The O&C Act also guarantees that a portion of the proceeds from the timber sales will be paid to the Oregon counties that contain O&C land. See 43 U.S.C. § 2605(a). Timber proceeds are deposited into "the 'Oregon and California land-grant fund'" and fifty percent of that fund is distributed annually to "the counties in which the lands [subject to the Act] are situated." Id. According to BLM, the O&C Act resulted in over $1.4 billion being paid to Oregon counties in the Act's first fifty years. See U.S. Dep't of the Interior, BLM, O&C Sustained Yield Act: the Land, the Law, the Legacy (1937-1987) at 14-15, available at https://www.blm.gov/or/files/OCHistory.pdf.

         In 1990, the Act's fifty-third year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service classified the northern spotted owl as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 ("ESA"), 16U.S.C. § 1531 etseq. See Determination of Threatened Status for the Northern Spotted Owl, 55 Fed. Reg. 26, 114 (June 26, 1990). Two years later, a federal district court in Oregon enjoined timber sales on lands that are suitable habitat for the threatened owls. See Portland Audubon Soc'y v. Lujan, 795 F.Supp. 1489, 1510-11 (D. Or. 1992), affdsub nom. Portland Audubon Soc'y v. Babbitt, 998 F.2d 705 (9th Cir.1993). Companies and Oregon counties that benefit from O&C land timber sales intervened in that lawsuit, but the court nevertheless extended the injunction to land governed by the O&C Act. See Id. at 1505-07.

         Much of the period since the northern spotted owl's classification has been consumed by a veritable tsunami of legal actions over how to manage O&C land. See Am. Forest Council v. Shea, 172 F.Supp.2d 24, 27 (D.D.C. 2001) (Jackson, J.). Parties have challenged land management plans announced by BLM, then settled their claims, only to later allege breaches of the settlement agreement. See Douglas Timber Operators, Inc. v. Salazar, 774 F.Supp.2d 245, 247-51, 261 (D.D.C. 2011). And BLM has issued and withdrawn land management plans, only to see courts reinstate the plans, then order them vacated again. See Pacific Rivers Council v. Shepard, No. 3:11-442, 2011 WL 7562961, at *l-3, *10 (D. Or. Sept. 29, 2011), report and recommendation adopted as modified, 2012 WL 950032 (D. Or. Mar. 20, 2012).

         Against this backdrop of highly contentious litigation, the Government took two recent actions that affect management of O&C land.

         II. The 2016 RMPs

         In 2016, BLM revised the RMPs that detail how it manages O&C land. The 2016 RMPs divide the land into six categories. See Administrative Record (No. 16-1599) ("AR") at JA-46, IND0514399-402 [Dkt. # 37]. Of the six, only one category-"harvest land base"-is managed to "achieve continual timber production that can be sustained through a balance of growth and harvest." Id. at JA-46, IND0514402. Other categories of land include riparian reserves, which are managed to "[m]aintain and restore riparian areas," and late-successional reserves, which are managed to, among other things, promote nesting and roosting habitat for the northern spotted owl and marbled murrelet. Id. In these latter categories, timber harvest is permitted for certain limited purposes. See Id. at JA-2, IND0513044. But when BLM calculated the ASQ of O&C timberland for the 2016 RMPs, the agency looked only to timber grown in the 498, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.