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National Trust for Historic Preservation v. Suazo

United States District Court, D. Arizona

June 9, 2015

National Trust for Historic Preservation, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Raymond Suazo, et al., Defendants.

ORDER

David G. Campbell United States District Judge

On March 27, 2015, the Court granted Plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, finding that the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to open the entire Sonoran Desert National Monument to recreational shooting was unreasonable in light of the Bureau’s duty to protect the Monument’s. Plaintiffs have now filed a motion for injunctive relief, asking the Court to enjoin shooting throughout the Monument. Doc. 48. The Court will grant the motion in part.

I. Background.

This case involves the Bureau of Land Management’s (“BLM”) decision to allow recreational target shooting throughout the Sonoran Desert National Monument. On January 17, 2001, President Clinton signed a presidential proclamation (“Proclamation”) establishing the Sonoran Desert National Monument (“Monument”), which comprises almost 500, 000 acres of Southern Arizona. The President directed the “Secretary of the Interior [to] manage the Monument through the Bureau of Land Management, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, to implement the purposes of this proclamation . . . [and to] prepare a management plan that addresses the actions . . . necessary to protect the objects identified in this proclamation.” A.R. 872.

BLM proceeded to prepare an environmental impact statement (“EIS”) and a resource management plan (“RMP”) for the Monument. An issue that quickly emerged was how to address the recreational target shooting that was taking place throughout the Monument. After researching the issue, BLM concluded that the entire Monument should be closed to recreational shooting. In its Draft EIS, BLM explained “that shooting activity, for reasons of potential impacts to Monument objects, visitor safety, accessibility, and physical suitability of terrain, would likely be limited to one area, the Hidden Valley . . . location.” A.R. 15316. Because making only this area available for shooting would be impractical, and because “BLM does not compromise on the safety of its visitors, ” BLM concluded that recreational shooting should be prohibited throughout the Monument. Id.

BLM planned to implement this conclusion in its proposed RMP and Final EIS. Immediately before publication of these documents, however, the Department of the Interior directed BLM to allow shooting throughout the Monument. BLM then adjusted the RMP and EIS to allow shooting and outlined “a comprehensive suite of administrative actions and best management practices” to mitigate the environmentally-harmful effects of recreational shooting. Nevertheless, the RMP and EIS retained BLM’s original analysis of shooting and BLM’s recommendation that shooting be prohibited. In September of 2012, BLM published its final Record of Decision (“ROD”) and approved RMP, which allowed shooting throughout the Monument.

Plaintiffs are three non-profit organizations: National Trust for Historic Preservation, Wilderness Society, and Archeology Southwest. On September 27, 2013, they filed suit against the Department of the Interior, BLM, and Raymond Suazo, the Arizona state director of BLM. Plaintiffs claimed that Defendants had violated the Proclamation, the Federal Land Policy and Management Act (“FLPMA”), the Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”), the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”), and the National Historic Preservation Act. Doc. 1. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and the Court heard oral arguments.

On March 27, 2015, the Court ruled largely in favor of Plaintiffs. For Plaintiffs’ claim that Defendants’ decision to allow recreational shooting throughout the Monument violated the Proclamation and FLPMA, the Court found:

After fully considering the Final EIS and the ROD, the Court cannot conclude that BLM acted reasonably in opening the Monument to shooting. There is simply too great an incongruity between the information contained in the Final EIS and the decision to allow shooting throughout the Monument. The Final EIS finds ongoing and substantial damage to the Monument from shooting, while the decision allows shooting to continue freely. . . . This is a quintessential example of a decision that runs “counter to the evidence in the record.” And the incongruity is not lessened by the addition of administrative actions that have not been evaluated for effectiveness.

Doc. 43 at 12 (citations omitted). The Court also found that the Final EIS violated NEPA by containing an inadequate analysis of mitigation measures for recreational shooting and an inadequate analysis of the cumulative impacts of shooting and other activities. Finally, the Court granted Defendants summary judgment on Plaintiff’s stand-alone APA claim.

As for remedy, Plaintiffs had initially requested a declaratory judgment, a remand of the matter to BLM, and an injunction on recreational shooting in the Monument pending a new decision and analysis from BLM. At oral argument, counsel for Plaintiffs stated they no longer were seeking an injunction. Based on this change of position, the Court did not grant an injunction but simply vacated “portions of the ROD, RMP, and Final EIS that permit recreational target shooting throughout the Monument and remand[ed] to BLM for reconsideration of that decision in light of the shortcomings identified in this order.” Doc. 43 at 22-23. BLM interpreted this Order as a directive to further evaluate the identified shortcomings, while still allowing shooting throughout the Monument until a new RMP was published. Doc. 48-4.

Plaintiffs have now filed a motion for an injunction on recreational shooting within the Monument. Doc. 48. They argue that the effect of vacating the portions of the RMP addressing recreational shooting was to prohibit shooting. They also argue that, regardless of the effect of the vacatur, the Court should enjoin shooting pending a new decision and analysis from BLM.

II. Procedural Posture.

Plaintiffs claim that their motion is appropriate under either Rule 59(e), which allows a court to “alter or amend a judgment, ” or Rule 60(b), which allows a court to relieve a party from a final judgment. Neither of these rules clearly applies to Plaintiffs’ motion because the Court has not yet entered a final judgment in this case. Rather, Plaintiffs’ motion fits better under Rule 54(b), which allows a court to revise “any order or other decision . . . at any time before the entry of a judgment adjudicating all the claims and all the parties’ rights and liabilities.” Plaintiffs in effect ask the Court to modify its summary judgment order to include injunctive relief. The Court has power to do so under Rule 54(b) and ...


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