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Environmentalists Lose Bid for Attorney’s Fees

(CN) - Environmental groups that sued to stop a timber sale in southwest Oregon are not entitled to attorney's fees and legal costs, the 9th Circuit ruled, because the BLM "slinked away" from the sale at the last minute.

The BLM planned a timber sale in the Willy Slide area of the Medford District in 2006, pending recommendations by the magistrate judge on cross-motions and the resolution of any objections.

Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, the Cascadia Wildlands Project and the Umpqua Watersheds challenged the plan in federal court, claiming it violated environmental protection laws.

The groups filed a separate lawsuit over two other proposed BLM timber sales. A 9th Circuit panel ruled for the environmentalists in that case, and the district judge reviewing the Medford District plan followed suit.

That same day, the BLM backed out of the Medford plan and moved to dismiss the environmentalists' suit as moot and unripe. The district court agreed.

The 9th Circuit rejected the environmentalists' bid for attorney's fees and costs, saying they are not "prevailing parties" under the definition.

The BLM's withdrawal from the plan was voluntary, the court concluded, not forced by a court judgment.

"[T]he BLM slinked away before the district court entered a judgment," Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain wrote.

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