Representative Matters

Protecting the Modoc National Forest from Post-Fire “Salvage” Logging and “Restoration”.
On behalf of Conservation Congress, Blue River Law is suing the Modoc National Forest to protect a special post-fire ecosystem. The Modoc National Forest North Adin Management Unit is historically one of the better Northern Goshawk viewing areas, and is home to the recently-delisted Modoc sucker. The 2017 Cove Fire resulted in a mosaic burn pattern in the area, leaving sufficient land for Northern Goshawk habitat to remain protected and for riparian areas near the Modoc sucker to remain intact. Conservation Congress is suing to protect this area from logging that is inconsistent with NEPA, NFMA, and the APA.

Challenging Federal Agency Funding Of Factory Farms Causing Pollution And Human Health Concerns.
On behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Arkansas Rights Koalition, and the Center for Biological Diveristy, Blue River Law filed a Petition with the Farm Service Agency and the Small Business Administration seeking a moratorium on hundreds of millions of dollars of federal financial assistance earmarked for expansion of the industrial poultry industry into Northeastern Arkansas until such time as the Agencies can conduct a programmatic environmental impact statement under NEPA. The Petitioners are asking the agencies to thoroughly and comprehensively analyze the impacts approximately 1,000 broiler houses will have on the region’s environment and human health, including specifically as to climate change, and they seek disclosure of and access to all the environmental review information on a federal website. The Petitioners submitted more than 100 exhibits supporting their request, including federal and state agency information documenting pollution and human health concerns from industrial animal operations like those proposed for Northeastern Arkansas, and how the network of broiler houses will contribute to and exacerbate climate change.

Forcing Federal Agencies Funding Factory Farms To Conduct Endangered Species Analysis.
On behalf of the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Arkansas Rights Koalition, Blue River Law, ALDF, and the Law Offices of Sean T. Malone served federal agencies Farm Service Agency, the Small Business Administration, and the Fish & Wildlife Service with a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue under the Endangered Species Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. These federal agencies are attempting to authorize the use of approximately $1.3 million in federal taxpayer money to subsidize construction of a giant poultry operation in the pristine Strawberry River Watershed of Northeast Arkansas. These federal agencies are attempting to grant the loans without adequately consulting on the seven endangered or threatened species in the region, and by not accounting for the nearly 1,000 broiler houses planned for the region. ALDF and ARK are asking the federal agencies to properly consult regarding protected species, including identifying the protected species in the area, adequately analyzing the effects of giant poultry operations on protected species, preparing a biological assessment, and considering the best available science. Read the NOI. ARK, ALDF and their partner the Center for Biological Diversity have further informed the agencies of significant new information relevant to their concerns. Read the first and second new information letters.

Successful Failure to Produce Records Lawsuit Against the National Park Service.
Following up to High Sierra Hikers Association’s comments HSHA requested public records from the National Park Service regarding its Wilderness Stewardship Plan. Over a year later, NPS had still failed to provide the documents HSHA is entitled to. HSHA engaged Blue River Law, the Law Offices of Charlie Tebbutt, and Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP to represent it in HSHA's Freedom of Information Act litigation against the NPS. Read the Complaint. In 2018, the parties settled the case, and HSHA was successful in obtaining nearly 400,000 pages of records from the National Park Service.

Standing up for activists “blacklisted” for seeking public records.
Blue River Law represented small beef farmers and clean drinking water advocates Lynn and Nancy Utesch of Kewaunee, Wisconsin in their efforts to change the state Department of Natural Resources’ practice of “blacklisting” members of the public exercising their right to access public records. Read the letter to the Wisconsin DNR.

Protecting endangered species in "roadside zoo" from inhumane treatment & conditions under the Endangered Species Act.
Blue River Law worked with the Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys seeking summary judgment that the failure to follow minimal “animal husbandry” practices harasses and harms endangered species kept in captivity. The lawsuit sought declaratory judgment that a backyard mom & pop zoo of approximately 300 animals, including endangered tigers, lions, lemurs, and wolves, unlawfully “takes” of some our nation’s most protected animals by not providing them with basic sanitation, veterinary care, or enrichment activities. Read the Summary Judgment Brief. Discovery in the case shows that at least 15 endangered species have died in the Defendants’ care in the last ten years. View the trial brief chart. Following a week-long trial and an appeal to the Eighth Circuit, Plaintiffs' victory was upheld. USDA has revoked the zoo's license.

Blue River Law

Challenging slaughterhouse to clean up its actOn behalf of Willamette Riverkeeper, the Oregon Clean Water Action Project and Blue River Law filed a 60-day Clean Water Act Notice of Intent to Sue against a slaughterhouse located just outside Eugene, Oregon. Bartels’ Farms was located on the shores of the Fern Ridge Reservoir, a major waterfowl wintering and nesting area. Willamette Riverkeeper asked Bartels to voluntarily make the necessary changes to its practices to ensure compliance with the law and to protect the environmental and wildlife resources of the area. Read the KLCC news release about the NOI.

Preventing Pollution From New Mexico’s Dairy IndustryBlue River Law submitted public comments to the U.S. EPA challenging the agency’s Draft NPDES General Permit for New Mexico CAFOs. Working with the New Mexico Environmental Law Center, the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, the Sierra Club - Rio Grande Chapter, Amigos Bravos, and several local community groups, Blue River Law advocated for stricter federal regulation of New Mexico’s dairy CAFOs. Of the hundreds of a dairy CAFOs in New Mexico, less than 25 are expected to be covered by the General Permit because of exemptions the groups argue are impermissible under the Clean Water Act. New Mexico is the 9th largest producer of dairy waste in the U.S., and has documented ground water pollution from its dairies, but the state and federal agencies refused to support regulatory strategies that identify, track, and prevent water contamination. The groups advocated for EPA to take a leadership role and use the Draft Permit as an opportunity to raise the bar on pollution control in the state. Read the Comments.

Preserving Seavey Loop FarmlandsTogether with Attorney Sean T. Malone, Blue River Law worked to preserve small family farmlands of Oregon from industrial development. The Seavey Loop area is an important and valued agricultural enclave just outside of the cities of Eugene and Springfield, providing agricultural support to more than 200,000 people. Seavey Loop families provide vegetables, berries, meats, dairy products, and flowers to Eugene and Springfield consumers. Seavey Loop is also at the base of Mount Pisgah, one of the “shining jewels” of Lane County. Read the letter submitted to the City of Springfield on behalf of 37 Seavey Loop residents, opposing the City’s proposal to expand into Seavey Loop to satisfy the City’s alleged need for more industrial space.

Advocating for Regulation and Enforcement of CAFOs under the Clean Water ActBlue River Law and the Great Lakes Environmental Law Center worked with Environmentally Concerned Citizens of South Central Michigan (ECCSCM), the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) and the Sierra Club (Michigan Chapter) to advocate for better Clean Water Act regulation of, and enforcement of regulations on Michigan’s CAFOs. Just months after livestock pollution in the region contributed to the 2014 Lake Erie toxic algae bloom and made Toledo’s water supply unsafe for about 500,000 people, Michigan DEQ’s NPDES CAFO General Permit stripped pollution controls for industrial animal factories. While other states reacted by banning certain manure practices (see Ohio’s recent law), Michigan responded by opening the door for more pollution and throwing up Freedom of Information Act hurdles for citizens in the process. Read the Comments.

Requiring Soil and Groundwater Cleanup at Industrial Dairy SiteBlue River Law joined forces with Simmons Hanly Conroy and Public Justice to sue the De Vries Dairy (aka N&M Dairy) in the Mojave Desert. The community plaintiff group sued under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and California state tort laws for manure management practices that for years had caused an imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment and that caused horrendous odors and flies, making their lives unbearable. The local residents sought to conduct a full, comprehensive cleanup of the contamination to groundwater and soils. Read the complaint. The Court denied the Defendant's attempt to dismiss the case, finding that it had jurisdiction and abstention was inappropriate and unwarranted. Read the Order Denying the Motion to Dismiss. Following extensive expert discovery and summary judgment briefing, the matter was resolved in 2017 in a way that was satisfactory for both parties and with no admission of liability.

Forcing Disclosure of Environmental Justice InformationOn behalf of Center for Race, Poverty & the Environment, Blue River Law worked with the Law Offices of Charles M. Tebbutt, P.C. to obtain documents under the Freedom of Information Act from the Environmental Protection Agency concerning the agency’s investigation into environmental justice complaints filed by CRPE.  CRPE sued EPA on behalf of citizens concerned with methyl bromide applications near Latino schools, and with the siting of toxic waste dumps near rural, low-income Latino communities. Read the CRPE FOIA complaint.

Preserving the Shasta-Trinity National Forest – On behalf of Conservation Congress, Blue River Law, Attorney Sean T. Malone, and Attorney Rachel Fazio are pushing for the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Administrative Procedures Act. The Service is proposing logging in an area of the National Forest that contains a trifecta of late-successional reserve stands, Northern Spotted Owl designated critical habitat, and inventoried roadless areas. Read the Complaint. The Court followed Darby v. Cisneros, 509 U.S. 137 (1993) and held that under the "Emergency Situation Determination" rules, the Forest Service had authorized logging to begin immediately, thereby denying Plaintiffs the opportunity to appeal. Plaintiff's claims thus were not barred by a failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Read the Order denying the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

Fighting Stream Poisonings in National Forests – On behalf of groups Californians for Alternatives to Toxics, High Sierra Hikers Association, Wilderness Watch, Blue River Law and Wild Earth Advocates, P.C. submitted comments to the National Park Service objecting to the Service’s proposed poisoning of high-altitude lakes and streams in pristine wilderness areas of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.  The comments oppose the Service’s proposal to use poisons like rotenone to eliminate non-native fish populations, and the Service’s position that stream poisoning will facilitate survival of the endangered and threatened frogs including the Mountain yellow-legged frog.  Read the Comments.

Limiting Commercial Services in Wilderness Areas – On behalf of High Sierra Hikers Association, Blue River Law prepared comments pushing the National Park Service to adhere to the Wilderness Act, NEPA, the APA, and the Endangered Species Act by limiting commercial trail rides and stock use in Wilderness Areas of the Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park. The National Park Service's "Wilderness Stewardship Plan" has been in development for nearly 30 years, yet it failed to properly interpret the language of the Wilderness Act, or prepare a proper draft environmental impact statement.  Read the Comments.

Enforcing City of Eugene Tree Preservation Law – On behalf of concerned neighbors, Blue River Law submitted comments to the City of Eugene Planning Division challenging the Division’s proposed application of Eugene City Code 9.8515(7), Eugene’s “Tree Preservation Law”.  Blue River Law successfully obtained greater tree preservation, extended critical root zone protections, and restricted use of mechanical equipment in any tree removal for the project.  Read the Comments and the Decision.