District Judge Denies Preliminary Injunction to Halt Construction On Trail

Judge Candy W. Dale of the Idaho District Court ruled against an injunction to stop construction on a recreational trail from Stanley, Idaho to the Redfish Lake recreation area on Tuesday. The trail is planned to be completed in the fall. The court determined that the plaintiffs did not demonstrate a likelihood of success that would merit an injunction.

The plaintiffs Sawtooth Mountain Ranch, Lynn Arnoe, and David Boren, represented by Perkins Coie, have filed a preliminary injunction and an amended complaint claiming the trail would violate the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. They claim the project is introducing harmful substances and disturbing the environment.

The project received a permit in 2018 and construction was planned to begin in May 2019. The government issued a stop-work order before construction began because the plaintiffs filed the initial complaint, but operations resumed in June 2019.

The court’s decision comes after a video hearing on June 19, 2020, where both the plaintiffs and defendants presented arguments. “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,” the judge said in the decision about the hearing.

The trail is meant to connect Redfish Lake, which is part of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area located six miles outside of the town of Stanley, with the town. Currently, a state highway connects the two, but it is the only route during the busy season for the Redfish Lake area. The staff began discussing a trail in the mid-1990s and purchased a public trail easement in 2005.

Surveys conducted by the City of Stanley and the US Forest Service showed positive public opinion for a trail between the two locations for non-motorized travelers. Environmental reports and biological assessments on the project showed expectations of minimum impact on the wetlands and fish species.

The defendants in the case include the United States, the Department of Agriculture, the United States Forest Service, Sawtooth National Forest, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, the Federal Highway Administration, and some individuals associated with those organizations.