What We Do: Litigation

Why We Litigate

HCPC has many tools that we use to achieve our goal of protecting the incredible Hells Canyon-Wallowas and Blue Mountains ecosystems. Those tools can best be described as: collaboration, participation in the NEPA process, education, outreach and litigation. Of all these tools and their variations, litigation is the tool most misunderstood.

We litigate when an agency – most often the U.S. Forest Service – proposes a project that threatens to violate environmental laws intended to protect our public lands, native wildlife or other natural resources. By the time we get to litigation on a project we have generally been involved with it for two years or more: reading the project plans, reviewing backing documents and studies, visiting the site, consulting scientists, drafting comments, and discussing the project with the agency. In fact, because of our intensive engagement, we sometimes know more about the project than some of the agency employees planning it.

We do not enter into litigation lightly. It is a huge demand on our minimal resources, and is an unfortunate sign that the process designed for the public’s participation in a project has failed. Ideally, litigation could be avoided through cooperation, collaboration and communication. But this is not always possible. Agency managers sometimes avoid making politically difficult decisions and often will not do what they know they should be doing without that push from the courts.

Is litigation effective? Yes, it is, since we are prudent about when we litigate and always have a solid basis for it. HCPC wins almost all our litigation. In fact, we’ve been ranked the second most successful litigant in the country for lawsuits challenging U.S. Forest Service decisions.

HCPC exists to protect the lands that all of us cherish so much, and as part of that we must ensure that our nation’s environmental laws are being followed.

Some current and recent litigation documents:

Sled Springs Off-Highway Vehicle Project, 2009 (Complaint)

Federal De-listing of Gray Wolves from the Endangered Species Act, 2009 (Complaint | Summary of Judgment Memo)

PGE Boardman, Clean Air Act violations, 2008 *****DOES NOT WORK*****

Bighorn Sheep on the Idaho Side of Hells Canyon (Part One | Part Two | Part Three)

Bald Angel Old Growth Timber Sale, 2007

North Fork Burnt River Mining, 2006