Center for Biological Diversity and EPIC v. R. Delgado, L. Woltering, A. Veneman, and USFS (Cattle Grazing in the Wild and Scenic North Fork Eel River)

Center for Biological Diversity and EPIC v. R. Delgado, L. Woltering, A. Veneman, and USFS (Cattle Grazing in the Wild and Scenic North Fork Eel River)

2001

On June 20, 2003, a federal judge ruled that the Forest Service violated the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and other laws when it authorized livestock grazing along the North Fork Eel River, finding that the Forest Service failed to protect steelhead trout. The North Fork Eel River is one of three major forks of the Eel River; it was protected under the Federal Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1981. It is one of the wildest and most remote stretches of river remaining on the West Coast.

EPIC filed a lawsuit to protect this magnificent place in December 2001 with the Center for Biological Diversity, and was soon joined by a Native American elder, Coyote Downey. Coyote is a member of the Keneste, or Wailaki, Tribe whose ancestors have lived in the North Fork Eel since time immemorial.

The Forest Service issued three large grazing permits covering most of the designated “wild” stretch of the North Fork that flows through National Forest land, and conceded that it gave no consideration to resulting environmental impacts. It tried to claim it has no obligation to prevent damage to the river’s “outstandingly remarkable values” as long as the damage is not “substantial.” The court soundly rejected this argument, agreeing with EPIC that “the Forest Service must, when managing a wild or scenic river, protect and enhance the outstandingly remarkable values for which the river was designated.” The plaintiffs were represented in the case by Pete Frost of the Western Environmental Law Center, Julia Olson of Wild Earth Advocates and Brent Plater of the Center for Biological Diversity.