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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Environment - "Judge rejects Dune Acres residents' plea to stop NPS tree cutting"

Updating these earlier ILB entries from April 13, 2012 and May 11, 2012, Kevin Nevers reports Dec. 13th in the Chesterton Tribune in this story:

The National Park Service (NPS) is free to continue cutting down trees in Cowles Bog at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, after a federal judge on Wednesday denied a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by a group of Dune Acres residents.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen issued a two-page order denying the TRO only 24 hours after the Coalition to Protect Cowles Bog Area filed it in the Hammond Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana.

Van Bokkelen noted in his order that the Coalition’s attorney, Cheryl Evans—who is herself one of the plaintiffs—failed to meet three requirements in her motion for the TRO:

•She did not file a separate motion for relief. Instead, her motion sought both a TRO and a preliminary injunction.

•She did not file a supporting brief for the motion.

•And the motion did not include certification of any efforts which Evans might have made to give notice of the filing to NPS and the named defendants, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar, National Lakeshore Superinten-dent Constantine Dillon, and NPS botanist Dan Mason. It also failed to include reasons such certification should not be required.

Although Van Bokkelen did not comment on the merits of the filing, he did state that it “gives no basis for the court to conclude that plaintiffs are likely to prevail in this case.”

At issue is what the Coalition refers to as NPS’ “clear-cutting” of some 3,400 trees in Cowles Bog, with the stated purpose of “restoring” the bog to the condition in which it appeared to the groundbreaking ecologist Henry Cowles when he studied it in the early 20th century. Work began on the project shortly after NPS received a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI) on Nov. 13, that is, after the project was deemed to pose no significant environmental threat.

Numerous Dunes Acres residents, however, formally objected to the Cowles Bog project, citing fears that it would affect water levels and lead to the flooding of Mineral Springs Road, that the removal of trees would subject the town to increased traffic and railroad noises, and that it would otherwise negatively affect residents’ quality of life.

The Coalition’s filing made four specific allegations, in seeking a TRO and preliminary injunction: that the environmental assessment prepared by NPS presented an insufficiently wide range of options (no action, 97-percent tree removal; or 99-percent removal); that it promoted “inaccurate data”; that it “suppressed” prior research into the history of Cowles Bog in order to make a better case for tree removal; and that it also “suppressed” public responses to the project.

This lengthy story, posted the day before (Dec. 12) by the Chesterton Tribune and also reported by Luke Nevers, details the contentions made in the Coalition's complaint/motion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 20, 2012 11:23 AM
Posted to Environment | Ind Fed D.Ct. Decisions