Win on Appeal For ELC Clients in Case Spanning Nearly 20 Years

On July 20, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit handed down an important and favorable ruling in Pit River Tribe v. Bureau of Land Management, one of the Environmental Law Clinic’s longest-running cases.  The decision, which reverses the lower court, holds that the Pit River Tribe and a number of local environmental groups have statutory standing to challenge the continuation of leases that, if developed, could permanently scar the Medicine Lake Highlands in northeastern California through unstudied industrial development.  The Ninth Circuit’s ruling affirms the right of the Pit River Tribe and other public stakeholders to ensure that the Bureau of Land Management is managing public lands in a manner consistent with its legal obligations.

The Ninth Circuit decision is the product of substantial investment by many students over many years, most recently Evan Stein (JD ’15), Amanda Prasuhn(JD ’15), Joel Minor (JD ’14), and Anuja Thatte (JD ’14), who wrote the briefs. Evan and Jason George (JD ’15) argued the case before the Ninth Circuit.

The case now moves back to the district court, where the Pit River Tribe and the other environmental plaintiffs will argue that the Bureau of Land Management improperly continued 26 non-producing geothermal leases on sacred lands in violation of the Geothermal Steam Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the National Historic Preservation Act, and the government’s fiduciary trust obligations to Indian tribes.