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Endangered Species Law and Policy

Category Archives: Court Decisions

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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

EPA Not Required to Consult on Air Quality Regulation Regarding Four Corners Power Plant

Posted in Court Decisions

On July 23, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was not required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding potential endangered species impacts of air quality regulations designed to reduce visual impacts of the Four Corners Power Plant on… Continue Reading

District Court Denies Motion to Enjoin Delta Water Transfers

Posted in Court Decisions

Last Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied (pdf) a motion brought by environmental groups to enjoin a water transfer project in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (Delta). Plaintiffs brought suit against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Bureau), arguing the Bureau violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by approving… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Rejects Strict Liability Standard and Reverses Trial Court Decision Imposing Endangered Species Act Section 9 Liability on State Officials for Whooping Crane Deaths

Posted in Court Decisions

In The Aransas Project v. Shaw, the Fifth Circuit reversed a lower court’s finding that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality violated section 9 of the Endangered Species Act through its combined actions and inactions with respect to management of water diversions in the San Antonio and Guadalupe River systems. We reported on the lower… Continue Reading

D.C. District Court Holds Pre-Violation Notice Ineffective

Posted in Court Decisions

On June 23, 2014, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia affirmed the strict application of the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) pre-litigation notice requirements, dismissing a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) failed to timely act on a number of listing petitions because the violations stated in the… Continue Reading

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Ordered to Complete Recovery Plan for Canada Lynx

Posted in Court Decisions, Fish & Wildlife Service, Litigation

Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Montana ordered (pdf) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to develop a timeline for completion of recovery planning for the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). The court determined that the Service’s purported justifications for not developing and implementing a recovery plan for the species were insufficient… Continue Reading

California District Court Finds Biological Assessments Inconsistent and Enjoins Caltrans’ Project

Posted in Court Decisions

In Souza v. California Department of Transportation, No. 13-cv-04407 (N.D. Cal. May 2, 2014), plaintiffs sought to enjoin a project proposed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to modify U.S. Route 199 and State Route 197 in Del Norte County, California, near the Smith River. Plaintiffs challenged the adequacy of Caltrans’ consultation with the… Continue Reading

En Banc Ninth Circuit Holds ESA Consultation Requirement Applies to Renewal of Long-Term Water Contracts

Posted in Consultation, Court Decisions

In a unanimous decision, eleven active judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that the duty to consult under section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when a federal agency action may affect a listed species or designated critical habitat of such species applies to the decision of… Continue Reading

District Court Holds That the Incidental Take Statement Requirement Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act Does Not Apply to Listed Plant Species

Posted in Court Decisions

Last Thursday, a U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held (pdf) that the incidental take requirements in section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) do not apply to listed plant species. In Center for Biological Diversity v. Bureau of Land Management, No. C 03-02509 SI (N.D. Cal. Apr.3, 2014), environmental group plaintiffs… Continue Reading

District Court Upholds Controversial Settlement Agreements between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Groups

Posted in Court Decisions

This week, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upheld (pdf) two settlement agreements – one between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and WildEarth Guardians, and the other between the Service and the Center for Biological Diversity – that collectively require the Service to determine whether to list 251 species… Continue Reading

California Court Recognizes Conservation Exception to Fully Protected Species Law

Posted in Court Decisions

On an issue of first impression, a California court has created a judicial exception to the “take” prohibition in the state’s fully protected species statutes.  On March 20, 2014, the California Court of Appeal held that the live trapping and translocation of a fully protected species does not constitute prohibited “take” of the species.  Center… Continue Reading

Oversight of Pesticide Ingredients May Trigger a Duty to Consult under the Endangered Species Act

Posted in Court Decisions

In Center for Biological Diversity v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 11-cv-00293 (pdf), plaintiffs sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), alleging that EPA’s oversight of pesticide ingredients, including trifluralin, triggered a duty to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service about trifluralin’s possible effects on species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). EPA and defendant… Continue Reading