Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Western District of Michigan at Grand Rapids.
No. 1:15-cv-00789—Gordon J. Quist, District Judge.
Argued: October 13, 2017
Decided and Filed: February 23, 2018
Before: KEITH, ROGERS, and McKEAGUE, Circuit Judges.
ROGERS, Circuit Judge. This case presents the question of what citizens must do during
the administrative planning stage of a federal agency action in order to preserve a later challenge
to the agency’s final decision under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). In 2008,
the National Park Service proposed a plan to build a scenic trailway through the Sleeping Bear
Dunes National Lakeshore in Leelanau County, Michigan. One of the alternative routes for the
trailway ran along Traverse Lake Road, but residents along that road opposed sending Lakeshore
visitors down their residential street, so they submitted objections to the proposed plan during the
public comment period. The Park Service attempted to address the objections to the 2008
proposal, and in 2009, the Park Service issued a revised proposal that made significant changes
to the portion of the trail along Traverse Lake Road. No one submitted objections to the revised
plan, and the Park Service approved the route along Traverse Lake Road after it made a finding
of no significant impact.
Almost six years later, the Little Traverse Lake Property Owners Association, along with
individual residents on Traverse Lake Road (collectively “Plaintiffs”) filed the current action,
contending that the 2009 plan violates NEPA and its implementing regulations. In support of
their claims, Plaintiffs sought to supplement the administrative record with additional pictures,
maps, and other documents. However, the district court correctly dismissed most of Plaintiffs’
claims as forfeited because Plaintiffs failed to participate in the Park Service’s planning process
in a manner that would alert the Park Service to their objections to the 2009 plan, and therefore,
Plaintiffs did not allow the Park Service the opportunity to give the issues meaningful
consideration before issuing its final decision. See Dep’t of Transp. v. Pub. Citizen, 541 U.S.
752, 764–65 (2004). The district court also correctly held that Plaintiffs’ lone preserved claim is
without merit, and that Plaintiffs have failed to show that there are exceptional circumstances
requiring supplementation of the administrative record.