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Ruling allows non-federal interests to intervene in environmental cases

January 18, 2011
Filed under Features

A decision handed down by an appeals court overturned a rule prohibiting non-federal interests from intervening in environmental cases in the Western United States.

The ruling, given by an 11-member panel, allows parties, such as rider groups and businesses to argue in environmental cases brought against the government under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and the Specialty Vehicle Institute of America (SVIA) led the briefing and argument in the case, according to a press release from the MIC.

The appeal stemmed from a case the Wilderness Society brought against the U.S. Forest Service. The Wilderness Society argued that the Forest Service with its travel management plan would allow for too much access to motorized vehicles in the Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho, according to The New York Times. Magic Valley Trail Machine Association, an Idaho rider group, wanted to intervene in the case, arguing that access to the national forest was already too restricted. However, Judge Edward Lodge of the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in the District of Idaho ruled that the group couldn’t get involved under the “federal defendant” rule.

The rider group then approached the MIC and SVIA, and the MIC and SVIA boards directed their staffs to join the appeal, according to the press release.

“In this case, we were confident our expertise and long history with the OHV community would give riders the best chance for success. We brought more to the table, the ‘horsepower’ if you will, than anyone else could have,” Paul Vitrano, MIC and SVIA executive vice president and general counsel, said in the release.

The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision only affects that district, which includes Alaska, California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. How it affects the rest of the country will vary by district, according to The New York Times.

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