The Coalition to Protect Cowles Bog has agreed to withdraw its motion for a
preliminary injunction against what it calls the “clear cutting” of some
3,400 trees in the Cowles Bog site at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore,
after the National Park Service (NPS) agree to remove no trees from the
easternmost portion of the project area.
The Coalition’s amended complaint, filed in the hope of scuttling the whole
project, remains on the table, however.
On Jan. 16, the Coalition and NPS jointly filed a stipulation, under which
the Coalition will withdraw—without prejudice—its petition for a preliminary
injunction, in exchange for which NPS agreed to two conditions:
•NPS will forbear from cutting any trees along the easternmost strip of the
project area, immediately west of Mineral Springs Road, before March 1,
without providing the Coalition and the court 14 days’ notice. In other
words, NPS will leave, for the moment, a screen of trees along the west side
of the road leading in to Dune Acres.
•NPS will also maintain the number of staff assigned on a daily basis to
this project “at a level no higher than the highest number of employees
assigned per day in December 2012”: that is to say, 12.
Work on what the NPS has termed the “restoration” of the 15 acres in Cowles
Bog began soon after NPS issued a “Finding of No Significant Impact” on Nov.
13, 2012. NPS has said that it intends to restore the bog to the condition
in which it appear to groundbreaking ecologist Henry Cowles when he studied
the site early in the 20th century. That work includes the removal of tree
cover and understory vegetation, to which numerous Dune Acres residents
objected during the public-comment period.
On Dec. 11, the Coalition—including listed plaintiffs Terry Grimm and Robert
and Cheryl Evans—filed suit in the U.S District Court for the Northern
District of Indiana, seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary
On Dec. 12, U.S. District Judge Joe Van Bokkelen denied the motion on
The Coalition amended the complaint in a filing of Dec. 28. That filing
seeks a preliminary injunction, on the one hand; and on the other, a
declaration that NPS’ “actions, findings, reports, and other decisions” with
respect to the Cowles Bog restoration are “in excess of statutory authority,
arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and otherwise not in
accordance with the law.”
Among other things, the Coalition alleges that NPS, in violation of the
National Environmental Policy Act (NEAP), suppressed research, “thus
depriving the public and decision makers of critical information”; utilized
“inaccurate and misleading information within their (Environmental
Assessment) which makes that document and related findings and decisions
invalid”; and suppressed public comments which “conflicted” with their plan.
On Jan. 3, NPS filed its response to the Coalition’s complaint. In that
filing NPS denies the Coalition’s specific arguments and maintains the
•That NPS did, in fact, review an “appropriate number of alternatives.” In
any case, “courts have held that agencies do not necessarily violate NEPA
even when they evaluate only the proposed alternative and the no-action
•That the Environmental Assessment did not “promote” inaccurate data.
“NPS considered relevant evidence, came to a reasoned conclusion based on
its expertise, and explained its conclusion. That conclusion, therefore, is
entitled to deference.”
•That NPS suppressed no research. “Nothing in NEPA requires either that an
(environmental assessment) include all underlying studies or that any agency
circulate all studies for public comment and review.”
•That NPS suppressed no public comment. “(O)pposition to a project does not
make a project ‘highly controversial’ for NEPA purposes or otherwise
indicate that NPS violated NEPA.”
•That the Coalition has demonstrated no “irreparable” harm. “NPS
specifically examined concerns of Dune Acres residents about the possibility
of sound transmission”—following the removal of the trees—and after
conducting a noise study found “that there will be no increase in sound
transmission due to the project.”
•That even a short-term delay caused by a temporary injunction would force
NPS to release from employment 15 temporary and subject-to-furlough workers.
“Thus, an injunction would have an immediate adverse effect on these
employees and their families.”