The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week abandoned the None but a Federal Defendant rule that for more than 20 years has prevented anyone but a federal agency from defending cases brought under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) that allege violations of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and other environmental laws. Public Lands Council (PLC) Executive Dustin Van Liew said the decision is a major victory for livestock ranchers and other public lands users.
"Well-funded environmental activist organizations have made a hobby out of claiming violations of NEPA and other environmental laws. Unfortunately, under the None but a Federal Defendant rule, ranchers and public lands users have been excluded from defending themselves and actively participating in cases regarding critical decisions that affect their livelihoods," Van Liew said. "Ranchers and other public lands users should be allowed to intervene in court decisions that affect their operations and this landmark decision will finally restore that right."
PLC and other organizations representing public-lands users filed an amicus brief on Oct. 21, 2010, asking the Ninth Circuit Court to abandon the 'None but a Federal Defendant' rule. The Court's unanimous decision supported this request stating that the "federal defendant' rule's limitation on intervention…runs counter to the standards we apply in all other intervention of right cases." The decision went on to say that the rule "fails to recognize the very real possibility that private parties seeking to intervene in NEPA cases may, in certain circumstances, demonstrate an interest protectable under some law and a relationship between that interest and the claims at issue."