A federal judge has denied a request by the owner of the Sawtooth Mountain Ranch to stop the U.S. Forest Service from building a trail to connect Stanley with Redfish Lake across ranch property.
Part of the trail is on an easement bought by the Forest Service from a previous owner of the ranch.
In May, as part of a lawsuit filed in April 2019, ranch owner David Boren and his wife, Lynn Arnone, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against trail construction on the grounds that the Forest Service’s approval of the project in 2017 had violated the federal Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. They claimed that the government had not conducted a biological assessment of listed species and had not obtained a permit to dredge and fill wetlands to be crossed by the proposed trail.
In her order handed down Tuesday, Idaho District Judge Candy Dale noted that a plaintiff seeking preliminary injunctive relief must first establish a likelihood of success on the merits of the case.
“The Court is not persuaded on the present record that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of either their Environmental Species Act claim or their Clean Water Act claim,” Dale ruled.
She determined that the Forest Service’s internal and external scoping in preparation for its approval involved sufficient analysis of the potential effects on threatened or endangered species. She also ruled that the nature of the wetlands to be filled did not meet the level required for the agency to need a permit under the Clean Water Act.
On Monday, Dale denied a request by the U.S. government for an order that David Boren and his brother Michael Boren stop interfering with construction of the trail. The government had filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction on June 24 alleging that Michael Boren had hovered his helicopter close over workers building the trail on June 20 in an attempt to intimidate them.
Dale stated that even though “placing the safety and security of the individuals working on the Trail in peril is inexcusable,” a temporary restraining order was not needed since there had been no subsequent flights.
“But, should the Court be made aware of successive attempts to interfere with the construction of the Trail that have the potential to place human safety at risk, or that impair Defendants’ statutory right to possession or control, whether by threats, low flying aircraft, or other means, the Court will not hesitate to invoke the authority it has to enter injunctive relief, and to protect the sanctity of the judicial process,” Dale’s ruling states.
Dale also noted that “although there is a strong inference that David Boren, by virtue of his close family relationship with his brother, Michael Boren, had something to do with the fly-over, there currently is no evidence before the Court other than speculation.”
Sawtooth Mountain Ranch attorney Erika Malmen, in Boise, could not be reached by press deadline Tuesday to comment on whether her clients intend to continue to pursue the case.
Sawtooth National Recreation Area Ranger Kirk Flannigan said last week that he expects the 4.5-mile trail to be done or nearly done by this fall.