The National Park Service (NPS) is free to continue cutting down trees in
Cowles Bog at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, after a federal judge on
Wednesday denied a motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) filed by a
group of Dune Acres residents.
U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen issued a two-page order denying the
TRO only 24 hours after the Coalition to Protect Cowles Bog Area filed it in
the Hammond Division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of
Van Bokkelen noted in his order that the Coalition’s attorney, Cheryl
Evans—who is herself one of the plaintiffs—failed to meet three requirements
in her motion for the TRO:
•She did not file a separate motion for relief. Instead, her motion sought
both a TRO and a preliminary injunction.
•She did not file a supporting brief for the motion.
•And the motion did not include certification of any efforts which Evans
might have made to give notice of the filing to NPS and the named
defendants, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar, National
Lakeshore Superinten-dent Constantine Dillon, and NPS botanist Dan Mason. It
also failed to include reasons such certification should not be required.
Although Van Bokkelen did not comment on the merits of the filing, he did
state that it “gives no basis for the court to conclude that plaintiffs are
likely to prevail in this case.”
At issue is what the Coalition refers to as NPS’ “clear-cutting” of some
3,400 trees in Cowles Bog, with the stated purpose of “restoring” the bog to
the condition in which it appeared to the groundbreaking ecologist Henry
Cowles when he studied it in the early 20th century. Work began on the
project shortly after NPS received a “Finding of No Significant Impact” (FONSI)
on Nov. 13, that is, after the project was deemed to pose no significant
Numerous Dunes Acres residents, however, formally objected to the Cowles Bog
project, citing fears that it would affect water levels and lead to the
flooding of Mineral Springs Road, that the removal of trees would subject
the town to increased traffic and railroad noises, and that it would
otherwise negatively affect residents’ quality of life.
The Coalition’s filing made four specific allegations, in seeking a TRO and
preliminary injunction: that the environmental assessment prepared by NPS
presented an insufficiently wide range of options (no action, 97-percent
tree removal; or 99-percent removal); that it promoted “inaccurate data”;
that it “suppressed” prior research into the history of Cowles Bog in order
to make a better case for tree removal; and that it also “suppressed” public
responses to the project.