REGIONAL- The U.S. Forest Service has filed a 41-page motion to dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction, a longstanding lawsuit by Wilderness Watch that accuses the federal agency of allowing towboat use …
REGIONAL- The U.S. Forest Service has filed a 41-page motion to dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction, a longstanding lawsuit by Wilderness Watch that accuses the federal agency of allowing towboat use in the Boundary Waters, contrary to federal law.
A federal district court judge, Nancy Brasel, has scheduled a hearing on the motion to dismiss for July 26. Wilderness Watch must file its reply to the motion to dismiss by June 19, while the Forest Service will have until July 19 for its rebuttal.
Meanwhile, plenty of uncertainty reigns. Judge Brasel has yet to rule on a Wilderness Watch motion that seeks a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the use of towboats in the wilderness beginning this summer. Brasel took that question under advisement at a March 29 hearing, but she has yet to rule on the question, leaving towboat operators uncertain about the visitor season already underway.
The bar for a preliminary injunction in a U.S. District Court is high— higher even than for a permanent one, because the injunction restrains a defendant’s ability to act before they have a chance to defend themselves in court.
To get a preliminary injunction, the plaintiff must show “irreparable harm” to themselves or their cause, plus the judge must guess whether the case will succeed on its own merits. The judge must also consider whether the balance of equities and hardships is in the plaintiff’s favor. This high standard means successful preliminary injunctions are rare.
As it stands, outfitters can continue to run their towboats for now, even as uncertainty hangs over their operations, which could come to a halt almost immediately depending on the judge’s actions.
Assuming Judge Brasel does not act on the preliminary injunction, the legal actions last week kick the can down the road until late July when the court will consider dismissing the case.
If Brasel decides against dismissal, the case will fall back to where it is now: with uncertainty prevailing over the possibility of a preliminary injunction.
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