The Court of Federal Claims issued a ruling confirming that a Contracting Officer can extend the time she has to issue a final decision, but can only make one extension. Under the Contract Disputes Act, a Contracting Officer must issue a final decision either within 60 days or, if the case is complex, notify the contractor of the deadline by which a decision will be issued. In this case, the Contracting Officer notified the contractor that a final decision would be issued within nine months. As that deadline came near, the Contracting Officer attempted to extend it a second time. However, the Court held that the second extension was invalid and that the claim was deemed to be denied once the initial deadline passed without a decision being made.
Archives for February 2015
The President has asked the National Park Service and other federal agencies, starting September of 2015, to give all fourth graders, along with all of their family members, free admission to national park units and other federal lands for September 2015 through August 2016. The “Every Kid in a Park” initiative is intended to encourage children to get outdoors and become more active. The free park pass will provide free access to all national parks, forests, wildlife refuges and other federal public lands.
A federal district court recently upheld a Forest Service decision to create a snowmobile trail near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The new trail would improve the safety of snowmobilers in the Superior National Forest, but the sound of snowmobiles using the new trail would carry over into a nearby wilderness area. The plaintiffs asserted that the noise from the snowmobiles would have a detrimental impact on the wilderness character of the nearby area.
The Court held that, “[w]hile the Wilderness Act’s protections plainly encompass activity that occurs outside a wilderness area—if that activity impacts the wilderness’s character—the Act does not bar agency activity simply because that activity has some effect on adjoining wilderness.” Focusing on the nature of the Forest Service’s action, the Court noted that the trail would be on the Superior National Forest and, by statute, national forests are to be managed for multiple purposes, including “outdoor recreation.” The Court also noted that the Wilderness Act itself states that it should not “be deemed to be in interference with the purpose for which national forests are established. . . .”
The Court further stated that “[t]he final and most dispositive factor is the extent to which the essential, natural characteristics of the wilderness area are changed by the agency activity,” and noted that the area at issue already was subject to snowmobile sounds because it was adjacent to private land and near a highway. In finding that the increase in sound would not constitute a Wilderness Act violation, the Court concluded that ”the sound level will, at most, change from that of rustling leaves or a whisper to moderate rainfall or a wooded residential neighborhood.” In addition, while the plaintiffs asserted that the noise level would be higher on weekends, the Court noted that the opportunity for solitude in the wilderness area existed “twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week” and thus it was appropriate to analyze the sound impact across the entirety of the week.
In a recent decision, a district court reiterated the principle that the National Park Service’s internal management policies are merely guidelines, and not the equivalent of law. Based on that principle, the court denied a request for reconsideration based on the argument that the National Park Service had failed to comply with its own internal guidelines. The court held that “the NPS Management Policies  ‘are intended only to provide guidance within the Park Service, not to establish rights in the public generally,’, and they are not enforceable against the NPS.”
A district court recently granted leave for a local county to participate in a lawsuit that challenged a Forest Service decision to implement a vegetation and road management project. The county asserted that its proposed brief “would benefit the court because it represents ‘the perspective of those who will be most directly impacted by the Court’s decision’ since the Project is located” in the county. The court agreed, holding that “District courts frequently welcome amicus briefs from nonparties concerning legal issues that have potential ramifications beyond the parties directly involved or if the amicus has ‘unique information or perspective that can help the court beyond the help that the lawyers for the parties are able to provide.’”