Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation

RESPONDENT: National Wildlife Federation
LOCATION: Doby’s Motel Court

DOCKET NO.: 89-640
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1988-1990)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

CITATION: 497 US 871 (1990)
ARGUED: Apr 16, 1990
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1990

E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr. - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Unknown Speaker -

Facts of the case

The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) challenged 1,250 land-use designations made by the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). NWF filed suit under section 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), claiming that the actions were "arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law." NWF argued that it had standing to sue because two of its members used public lands "in the vicinity" of lands affected by the BLM's decisions (four other members submitted affidavits claiming that they, too, used lands close to affected areas, but the District Court ruled that the affidavits had been submitted too late).

The BLM challenged the NWF's right to sue, and the District Court agreed. It found that the two affidavits filed in a timely manner did not show that the members had been sufficiently affected to have standing to sue. Furthermore, the court ruled that even if they had had standing to challenge those specific BLM decisions, they would not have had standing to challenge all 1,250.

On appeal, however, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the initial two affidavits were enough to give them standing to challenge all 1,250 decisions. Moreover, the Court ruled that the District Court had abused its discretion by refusing to consider the additional four affidavits.


Does an organization representing private citizens who use public land "in the vicinity" of areas affected by Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land-use designations have standing to challenge those designations under section 10(e) of the Administrative Procedure Act? Does standing to challenge several individual BLM decision confer standing to challenge those decisions as a whole, even when the organization's members are not affected by the bulk of the decisions?

Media for Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 16, 1990 in Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation

William H. Rehnquist:

We will hear argument now in 89-460, Manuel Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation.

Mr. Roberts.

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

This case is here on certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

That court held that Respondent had standing to challenge hundreds of Bureau of Land Management land orders entered over the course of several years affecting 180 million acres of public lands in 17 states.

The court concluded that a single affidavit of one of Respondent's members, Peggy Kay Peterson, was sufficient to confer that standing.

In her affidavit Ms. Peterson claimed that she used Federal lands in the vicinity of the South Pass/Green Mountain area of Wyoming, and she claimed that she was injured by a BLM decision to open that area to the staking of mining claims.

The district court found that the area in question covered some 2 million acres, of which only 6,000 acres had ever been closed to mining, and of those 6,000 the BLM decision only opened 4,500 to the staking of mining claims.

The court noted that Peterson's affidavit said nothing about using the 4,500 affected acres and, therefore, concluded that she had shown no injury and that Respondent, therefore, had no standing.

Harry A. Blackmun:

But she also claimed about lack of access to information, didn't she?

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

That claim was in the Greenwalt declaration, one of the other of the three original affidavits that were submitted by Respondent.

The claim there was that the organization had standing in its own right, without regard to any injury to its particular members.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Well, it's in your case?

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

Yes, Your Honor.

And the district court, we believe, correctly concluded that that declaration, the Greenwalt declaration, was completely conclusory and devoid of specific facts.

But more important, it's really just Sierra Club against Morton all over again.

Harry A. Blackmun:

But the court of appeals thought otherwise?

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

With respect, Your Honor, no, it did not reach the Greenwalt declaration.

It didn't pass on that, choosing to rest its decision entirely on the Peterson affidavit.

The district court, however, did address the Greenwalt declaration and found it, as I've indicated, conclusory and devoid of fact.

It is, as I've mentioned, the Sierra Club case all over again.

In fact, it's... it's helpful to compare the allegation of standing in the Sierra Club case with that in the Greenwalt declaration.

They're really quite similar.

Each of them says our organization has experience and expertise in conservation.

We're vitally interested in this issue.

In the Sierra Club case the affidavit said we responsibly serve and represent our members.

In the Greenwalt declaration, Ms. Greenwalt claimed that the organization needed information and public participation in order to represent their members.

But this court in the Morton case said that that sort of interest was insufficient to confer standing because it was in no way distinct from the interest any citizen could claim coming in the courthouse and saying I'm interested in this subject.

Turning back to the Peterson affidavit, what Ms. Peterson claimed was that she used land in the vicinity of this 2 million acre parcel, the South Pass/Green Mountain area of Wyoming.

The District... the D.C. Circuit on appeal presumed that she meant to say something else.