Organized Village of Kake v. USDA

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Administrative Law
  • Date Filed: 03-26-2014
  • Case #: 11-35517
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bea for the court; Circuit Judges Hawkins; Dissent by Circuit Judge McKeown
  • Full Text Opinion

Regardless of an existing agency rule or decision, an agency is not stopped from changing that rule or decision, nor does the agency face a higher burden to do so under the Administrative Procedure Act.

A number of environmental organizations and a collection of Alaskan villages brought suit against the USDA and the U.S. Forest Service challenging a 2003 administrative decision made by the Forest Service, which created a temporary exception to the 2001 Roadless Rule, which would allow roads to be built in the Tongass forest. The district court granted summary judgment for the plaintiff and entered an order to set aside the Tongass Exemption, The State of Alaska, which has intervened as defendants, now appeals. The Ninth Circuit held that regardless of whether an agency had previously created a rule or issued a decision does not, by itself, impede that agency from changing that rule or decision, nor create a higher burden to do so under the Administrative Procedure Act’s standard of arbitrary and capricious review. The Record of Decision the USDA issued in forming the Tongass Exception contained a satisfactory explanation for the new rule as well as showed the relevant data considered with respect to the rules impact on timber production, hardships placed on Alaskan communities and ending other litigation regarding the Roadless Rule. REVERSED and REMANDED

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