Ninth Circuit Upholds Preservation of Historic Structures In A Wilderness Area

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The Ninth Circuit recently affirmed a lower court’s ruling that allowed historic structures to remain in a wilderness area notwithstanding the plaintiff’s claim that, as a matter of law, man-made structures cannot remain in those areas.  The case, previously reported on here, involved a challenge to the National Park Service’s decision to rehabilitate five historic structures in the Olympic Wilderness Area.  The court rejected the argument that structures were prohibited from being present in wilderness areas by the Wilderness Act.  Instead, the court confirmed that the Wilderness Act directed agencies to both preserve the wilderness while at the same time providing for recreational and historical use.  Based on the language in the law, wilderness use did not necessarily override these other uses.  The court held that an agency’s decision on how to proceed where there is tension between the various directives under the law would be given deference if it showed sufficient thoroughness, valid reasoning and consistency with other decisions.

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