Norton v. Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance

542 U.S. 55 (2004)

Facts

The Wilderness Act requires land designated as wilderness to be managed such that it excludes the trappings of modern civilization such as permanent roads, motorized vehicles and commercial enterprises. D identifies land to be designated as wilderness and forwards the recommendations to Congress. Before their designation as wilderness, the lands must be managed so that if they are so designated as wilderness, that management does not impair the suitability of such areas to be wilderness. Ps filed this action in the United States District Court for Utah against BLM, its Director, and the Secretary (Ds). P sought declaratory and injunctive relief for D's failure to act to protect public lands in Utah from damage caused by ORV use. The District Court entered a dismissal, and a divided panel of the Tenth Circuit reversed. The majority acknowledged that under §706(1), 'federal courts may order agencies to act only where the agency fails to carry out a mandatory, nondiscretionary duty.' The court concluded that D's nonimpairment obligation was just such a duty.