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Endangered Species Law and Policy

Category Archives: Court Decisions

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Ninth Circuit Critical Habitat Decision Casts Shadow On Habitat Conservation Plan “No Surprises” Assurances

Posted in Court Decisions, Critical Habitat

In a decision that casts a shadow on the enforceability of contractual assurances in habitat conservation plan (“HCP”) agreements, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected various Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) and National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) challenges to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“Service”) designation of critical habitat for a… Continue Reading

District Court Declines to Provide Injunctive Relief for Emergency Drought Salinity Barrier in the California Bay-Delta

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Legal, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

On June 18, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied a motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, finding the plaintiff failed to establish that an emergency salinity barrier would imminently harm species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability (“CESAR”)… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Holds Forest Service Violated ESA by Failing to Reinitiate Consultation for Canada Lynx

Posted in Consultation, Court Decisions, Critical Habitat

On June 17, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the U.S. Forest Service (Service) violated section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the impacts of a revised critical habitat designation on the Canada lynx… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Rules Approval of Oil Spill Response Plans is Non-Discretionary

Posted in Court Decisions, Legal, Litigation

On June 11, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s (Bureau) approval of oil spill response plans (OSRPs) relating to oil leases in the Beaufort and Chuckchi seas on Alaska’s Arctic coast.   Alaska Wilderness League v. Jewell, No. 13-35866 (9th Cir. June 11, 2015).  Among… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Holds Consultation Unnecessary for Wind Energy Project

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service

On May 27, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit provided some additional guidance as to what constitutes agency action for purposes of triggering the consultation requirement under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The court held that although the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was required to consult with the U.S. Fish and… Continue Reading

DC Circuit Holds Groups Lack Standing to Challenge Two Controversial U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Settlement Agreements

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Listing, Litigation

On Tuesday, May 26, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected (pdf) the National Association of Home Builders’ and three other associations’ (collectively, NAHB) challenge to separate settlements between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and two environmental organizations. The settlements direct the Service to make listing decisions on… Continue Reading

D.C. Court Upholds Forest Service’s 2012 Planning Rule

Posted in Court Decisions, Litigation

In a decision issued April 28, 2015, a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed an action challenging the U.S. Forest Service’s (Service) 2012 National Forest Planning Rule (Planning Rule).  The Service is responsible for managing all federally owned forest and range lands, as well as the species that reside on those lands, pursuant to a three-tiered… Continue Reading

Tenth Circuit Upholds Roadway Project On Lands Formerly Used To Manufacture Nuclear Weapons

Posted in Court Decisions

On April 17, 2015, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed a district court decision upholding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) approval of a roadway project in the Rocky Flats area of Denver, Colorado. WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nos. 12-1508 and 12-1509, slip. op. (10th Cir…. Continue Reading

Federal Court Strikes Down Habitat Conservation Plan and Biological Opinion for Logging Project in Northern California

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Litigation, National Marine Fisheries Service

On April 3, 2015, a federal district court in California put the brakes on a proposed logging project, invalidating a habitat conservation plan and incidental take permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) under section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), as well as a… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Dismisses Action Alleging San Francisco Violated the Endangered Species Act

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Legal

In a three-page memorandum decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit dismissed Wild Equity and other groups’ appeal from a lower court decision, dismissing as moot a lawsuit alleging that the City and County of San Francisco (“San Francisco”) violated the Endangered Species Act’s take prohibition as a consequence of its… Continue Reading

Court Denies Motion to Dismiss a Challenge to Natural Gas Projects in the Great Barrier Reef

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service

On Friday, February 20, a federal district court denied (pdf) a motion to dismiss, thereby breathing life into an Endangered Species Act (ESA) challenge brought against the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Bank) for funding activities in and around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. See Center for Biological Diversity, et al. v. Export-Import… Continue Reading

Federal Court Holds U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Violated Endangered Species Act by Delisting Gray Wolf in Nine States

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia recently held (pdf) that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it issued a final rule delisting gray wolves in nine states (Final Rule) because the Service’s interpretation of the ESA, particularly its identification of a Distinct Population Segment… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Panel Holds NMFS Biological Opinion regarding California Water Projects Passes Legal Muster

Posted in Court Decisions

As numerous news outlets reported, see L.A. Times and S.F. Chronicle, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a decision reversing a lower court and affirming a biological opinion and reasonable and prudent alternative issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service with respect to the continuing operation of the Central Valley Project… Continue Reading

Court Holds Small Business Administration and Farm Service Agency Must Consult on Loan Guarantees

Posted in Court Decisions

A federal district court in Arkansas recently issued a decision clarifying that the obligation to consult under section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) extends to the Small Business Administration and the Farm Service Agency when they provide loan guarantees to farmers.  The case, Buffalo River Watershed Alliance v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Case… Continue Reading

High Court Denies Petition by Parties with Reclamation Contracts Seeking to Avoid ESA Consultation

Posted in Court Decisions

On November 17, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the petition for writ of certiorari filed by Glenn Colusa Irrigation District and others seeking to overturn a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (en banc) holding that the Bureau of Reclamation’s decision to renew water contracts with senior water rights holders… Continue Reading

Arizona District Court Finds Sonoran Desert Bald Eagles Are Not a Distinct Population Segment

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Listing

On November 4, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona issued an opinion in Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Jewell,2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 157436(D. Ariz.Nov. 4, 2014) finding that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not abuse its discretion by finding that the Sonoran Desert population of bald eagles is not a distinct… Continue Reading

Court Holds Congress Lacks Power to Regulate Take of Intrastate Species that Has No Substantial Effect on Commerce

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Litigation

On November 4th, the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah invalidated the special rule issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regulating take of the threatened Utah prairie dog, a species that only inhabits the state of Utah.  See People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish and… Continue Reading

Court Affirms FEMA’s Efforts to Implement Actions to Avoid Jeopardizing Listed Species

Posted in Court Decisions, Litigation, National Marine Fisheries Service

On October 23rd the Federal District Court for the Western District of Washington upheld the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) compliance with a 2008 reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) stemming from previous litigation.  The National Wildlife Federation initially challenged the program for its impacts on endangered Pacific Northwest Chinook salmon,… Continue Reading

Court Holds Lack of Specificity Dooms Wyoming Wolf Delisting

Posted in Court Decisions

On September 23, 2014, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia invalidated the final rule issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) delisting the Wyoming Gray Wolf distinct population segment from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Species, concluding that Wyoming’s regulatory protections were unenforceable and therefore inadequate for purposes of delisting… Continue Reading

District Court Rules Grizzly Bears Trump Montana’s Plan to Log Forest Lands to Fund Schools

Posted in Court Decisions

On August 21, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Montana remanded the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Forested State Trust Lands Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and suspended the associated Endangered Species Act Section 10(a)(1)(B) Permit(Permit) for incidental take of the threatened grizzly bear.  Friends of the Wild Swan v. Jewell,… Continue Reading

Court Reluctantly Upholds Designation of Critical Habitat for Frog

Posted in Court Decisions

Last week, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana upheld the designation of approximately 1,544 acres of privately-owned timber land located in Louisiana as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa), concluding that even though the frog was last spotted on the property in the 1960s and the only known wild populations of the frog are all located… Continue Reading

Court Allows ESA Claims Involving Oversight of Pesticides to Move Forward

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service

In Center for Biological Diversity v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 11-cv-00293-JCS (pdf), plaintiffs alleged that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) violated section 7 of the Endangered Species Act by failing to initiate and reinitiate consultation with the National Marine Fisheries and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with respect to its ongoing oversight of 382 active… Continue Reading

California District Court Dismisses ESA Section 7 Case for Failure to Allege that Agency Action Took Place on the “High Seas”

Posted in Court Decisions

On August 12, a judge for the Northern District of California granted (pdf) a motion to dismiss claims alleging that a federal agency violated section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to consult with federal wildlife agencies concerning the potential effects of its actions on listed species in the Great Barrier Reef…. Continue Reading

Recent Ninth Circuit ESA Decision May Be Headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Posted in Court Decisions

On July 14, Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (GCID) filed a petition for writ of certiorari (pdf) with the U.S. Supreme Court, seeking review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, 749 F.3d 776 (9th Cir. 2014). In an en banc decision, the Ninth Circuit found that a U.S. Bureau of… Continue Reading