Sierra Club v. Morton

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Sierra Club v. Morton
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued November 17, 1971
Decided April 19, 1972
Full case name Sierra Club v. Rogers Clark Ballard Morton, Secretary of the Interior, et al.
Citations 405 U.S. 727 (more)
A person has standing to seek judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act only if he can show that he himself has suffered or will suffer injury, whether economic or otherwise. In this case, where petitioner asserted no individualized harm to itself or its members, it lacked standing to maintain the action.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Stewart, joined by Burger, White, Marshall
Dissent Douglas
Dissent Brennan
Dissent Blackmun
Powell and Rehnquist took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972), is a famous United States Supreme Court case on the issue of standing in environmental lawsuits.

Environmental standing

The suit arose when the United States Forest Service permitted development of Mineral King near Sequoia National Park. The key issue in the case was whether the permitted development would cause the Sierra Club sufficient injury to give them standing to sue to block the permit. The Supreme Court held that the Sierra Club, in its corporate capacity, lacked standing, but that it may sue on behalf of any of its members who had individual standing because the government action affected their aesthetic or recreational interests. However, the Sierra Club had failed to state in its complaint that any of its members had ever visited Mineral King, even though several members had used it for recreational purposes and even owned property in the nearby area, and so it lost. Justice Potter Stewart, who delivered the opinion of the Court, did agree with the dissenters to the addition of a footnote in the official opinion that did specify that Sierra Club could amend its complaint on remand.[1]

Although the Sierra Club lost the case, as a practical matter they won the war. To assert standing in a natural resource manner, environmental groups simply need to find among their membership a single person with a particularized interest (e.g., one who hikes, hunts, fishes, or camps in or near the affected area).[1] Mineral King was ultimately never developed and was absorbed into Sequoia National Park.

Douglas' dissent

Sierra Club v. Morton is, perhaps, best known for the dissenting opinion by William O. Douglas who asserted that natural resources ought to have standing to sue for their own protection. An excerpt from his dissent:[1]

See also

Further reading

  • Schrepfer, Susan R. (1989). "Establishing Administrative 'Standing': The Sierra Club and the Forest Service, 1897-1956". The Pacific Historical Review. The Pacific Historical Review, Vol. 58, No. 1. 58 (1): 55–81. JSTOR 3641077.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727 (1972).

External links