District Court Upholds Controversial Settlement Agreements between U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Environmental Groups
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 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in accordance with certain deadlines. See National Association of Home Builders v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, No. 12-2013 (Mar. 31, 2014). Plaintiffs, who included organizations representing landowners and businesses in areas where the 251 species may occur, argued the settlement agreements violate the procedural requirements of section 4 of the ESA because they prohibit the Service from determining that protection for a species is warranted, but precluded by higher priority listings. Defendants moved to dismiss the case for lack of jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. The court granted defendants’ motion, finding plaintiffs could not demonstrate standing – specifically, injury in fact – because the settlement agreements do not require any specific substantive outcome; the agreements only require the Service to make determinations pursuant to a set schedule. For further information regarding the controversial settlement agreements, please see our posts dated December 10, 2013 and May 11, 2011.