Court Upholds Public's Democratic Right to Participate in Government
WildEarth Guardians Lawsuit Challenged Uranium Exploration Permitting in New Mexico
Sacramento - A WildEarth Guardians’ legal victory restores the right—and every citizen’s right—to protect the land, water and wildlife. The lawsuit arose, in part, from a permit for uranium exploration on the Cibola National Forest that was exempted from public challenges under a Bush-era rule. WildEarth Guardians commented on the proposal, but the Forest Service denied the right to administratively challenge the decision. Guardians and a handful of conservation allies with similar experiences across the country, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center, challenged the exemption in federal court.
This week, WildEarth Guardians won the decisive lawsuit
defending the public’s right to participate in all land management decisions by
the U.S. Forest Service. A California district court overturned the 2003
Bush-era rule. This
court victory preserves the right—the right of the owners of the national
forest system—to challenge the government’s decisions without having to go
straight to the courtroom.
so-called ‘streamlining’ of government permitting is nothing more than an
erosion of our democracy.” Said Bryan Bird, Program Director with WildEarth
Guardians. “This court has come down decisively on the side of checks and
balances, which make our country a beacon of democracy.”
The Cibola National Forest
in central New Mexico was named because it regularly employs the Bush Healthy
Forest Initiative-rule baring public appeals of categorical exclusions to
approve uranium exploration. In September 2010, the
Forest Service approved the White Mesa Uranium Exploration project, which permitted
exploratory drilling for uranium, employing a categorical exclusion. WildEarth Guardians commented on the
proposal and would have appealed this project, but were denied the right under
the Forest Service rules, going to court in April 2011.
“We are not going to standby and watch our public
lands drilled for uranium without a fight.” Said Bird. “This deadly mineral has
a legacy of poisoning people and our environment deserving full transparency.”
Appeals Reform Act requires that all “proposed actions of the Forest Service
concerning projects and activities implementing land and resource management
plans” must be subject to public notice, comment, and administrative appeal,
yet the challenged regulations illegally exempted all actions that were “categorically
Read the court's summary judgment here.