United States District Court, W.D. Wisconsin
D. PETERSON District Judge
suit arises from a dispute over the use of the Sauk Prairie
State Recreation Area (the Area), where the Badger Army
Ammunition Plant used to be. According to plaintiff Sauk
Prairie Conservation Alliance, the federal government gave
the land to the Wisconsin Department of National Resources on
the condition that it be reserved for conservation,
education, and low-impact recreational use such as hiking.
But in December 2016, the WDNR approved high-impact uses,
including motorcycle racing, helicopter flight training by
the Wisconsin Army National Guard, hunting dog training, and
paintballing. According to the complaint filed in January
2017, these high-impact uses violate the terms of the
transfer to the state, and the defendants, federal agencies
and administrators, violate federal law by allowing them. The
Alliance wants the high-impact uses stopped.
five months after the filing of the complaint, and the
Alliance now moves for a preliminary injunction enjoining
defendant the National Park Service and intervenor defendant
the State of Wisconsin from allowing three of the high-impact
uses: (1) off-road motorized vehicles; (2) increased gun use;
and (3) helicopter training by the Wisconsin Army National
Guard in the Area. Dkt. 19. The Alliance says that it did not
move for preliminary injunctive relief sooner, because it had
filed a similar motion in state court. But the state court
denied that motion, and the Wisconsin Court of Appeals denied
the request for interlocutory appeal. So the Alliance wants
to try again in this court, and it asks for expedited
briefing to avoid irreparable harm to nesting birds in the
area during the summer breeding season. Because the Alliance
has not shown that it is likely to suffer irreparable harm
before this case can be decided on the merits, the court will
deny its motion without need for a response from defendants.
court will assume here that the Alliance can make the
requisite showing of likely success on the merits. But to
obtain preliminary injunctive relief, the Alliance must also
demonstrate the lack of an adequate remedy at law and
irreparable harm absent the injunction. Promatek Indus.,
Ltd. v. Equitrac Corp., 300 F.3d 808, 811 (7th Cir.
2002). Environmental injury may be irreparable, but a
preliminary injunction is warranted only if the injury is
sufficiently likely and permanent. See Amoco Prod. Co. v.
Village of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 545 (1987). The
parties' motions for summary judgment will be fully
briefed by December 2017, and given the nature of the claims
here, it is reasonably likely that those motions will resolve
the case. Accordingly, the Alliance must demonstrate that
irreparable harm is sufficiently likely to occur before
spring 2018, when the court will decide the case on the
Alliance explains that the Area is home to 33 rare animal
species and 97 breeding bird species. It contends that noise
and exhaust from motorized vehicles “may cause
displacement, nest desertion, [and] breeding failure”
to some native species, and that the vehicles could compact
and erode the soil and hit some slow-moving animals. Dkt. 21,
at 26. Firearm discharge “may disturb wildlife and
cause wildlife to flush or exhibit avoidance
behaviors.” Id. at 28. Helicopter flights may
disturb “geese and nesting bald eagles” and
“generate considerable wind and dust.”
Id. at 29. And visitor traffic may increase trash
and attract predators such as raccoons, killing endangered
grassland birds by “trampling or eating nests on the
ground.” Id. at 32. The Alliance explains that
the harm to breeding birds is more pronounced during the
nesting season, which runs from late May through late July.
“Any disturbance within that time frame, even for just
a few days, would prove significantly detrimental to the
likelihood of breeding success.” Id. at 33.
Alliance has made a good showing that the contested
high-impact uses will disrupt wildlife in the Area, including
some vulnerable species. But there are fatal flaws with the
the Alliance has not shown that a preliminary injunction
would actually prevent the alleged environmental harm. The
Alliance focuses on the disruption of the current nesting
season, which may reduce the breeding success of some
species. But even on an expedited briefing schedule, the
court would not be able to issue an injunction before the end
of the nesting season in July.
the Alliance does not explain why enjoining the three
specific activities will prevent the negative environmental
impact. One expert explains that gunfire has “severe
effects on bird populations.” Id. at 30. But
the Alliance does not request a total ban on gun use, only
the increased gun use connected with dog training,
leaving people free to continue to hunt in the Area. Another
expert explains that some birds are “vulnerable to
predation and nest disturbance by dogs.” Id.
at 29. But the Alliance does not request a ban on dogs, only
the cessation of hunting dog training.
and most fundamentally, the Alliance has not shown that the
wildlife disruptions and resulting environmental harm would
be permanent. The Alliance does not explain how a few more
months of high-impact activities in the Area will cause harm
that would not be remediated if and when the offending
activities cease. After all, the Area was once home to a
munitions plant, and wildlife returned to the Area after the
plant was decommissioned and the Army cleaned up the site.
Alliance has not shown that it will likely suffer irreparable
harm before its case is decided on the merits. The court will
deny its motion for a preliminary injunction without need for
a response from defendants.
ORDERED that plaintiff Sauk Prairie Conservation
Alliance's motion for preliminary ...