Robert Thornton

Robert Thornton

Robert Thornton is one of the foremost natural resources and Endangered Species Act lawyers in the country. He has represented landowners, resource developers and public agencies on high profile matters, successfully defending over $5 billion in regional transportation improvements and developing regional conservation plans that now protect hundreds of thousands of acres.

Over three decades, Mr. Thornton has demonstrated his ability to use innovative strategies – such as habitat conservation plans (HCPs) – to ensure successful project delivery. His workRobert Thornton is one of the foremost natural resources and Endangered Species Act lawyers in the country. He has represented landowners, resource developers and public agencies on high profile matters, successfully defending over $5 billion in regional transportation improvements and developing regional conservation plans that now protect hundreds of thousands of acres.

Over three decades, Mr. Thornton has demonstrated his ability to use innovative strategies – such as habitat conservation plans (HCPs) – to ensure successful project delivery. His work is well respected by his colleagues and clients who have ranked him among the nation’s top lawyers. Mr. Thornton has been ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 environmental lawyers by United States Lawyer Rankings from 2006 through 2010.

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California Supreme Court Ponders Fully Protected Species Issues

On September 2, 2015, the California Supreme Court heard oral argument in a case involving fully protected species that may have important state-wide implications. (Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Fish and Wildlife (Newhall Land and Farming Company), No. S217763.)  The case involves challenges to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (Department) environmental impact report … Continue Reading

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

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

Fish & Wildlife Service Finds That Gnatcatcher Delisting May Be Warranted

Continuing the quarter century controversy over the listing of the Coastal California gnatcatcher (Polioptila californica californica) as a threatened subspecies, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has concluded that a petition to delist the gnatcatcher may be warranted. (Federal Register PDF).   The petition asserts that the listing of the Coastal California gnatcatcher as … Continue Reading

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

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

Petition to Delist California Gnatcatcher Filed

Citing new genetic evidence that the coastal California gnatcatcher is not a distinct subspecies as previously claimed, but is part of a single, healthy and abundant species that ranges from Southern California to the southern tip of Baja, Mexico, the National Association of Home Builders and several other parties filed a petition to remove the … Continue Reading

Proposed Critical Habitat Rules Expand Reach of Critical Habitat Protections Under the Endangered Species Act

On May 12, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service proposed two important new rules (50 CFR Part 402 and 50 CFR Part 424) implementing the critical habitat provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposed rules expand the regulatory definition of “critical habitat” and “adverse modification” – … Continue Reading

California Court Recognizes Conservation Exception to Fully Protected Species Law

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

Court of Appeals Upholds Polar Bear Listing Based on Climate Change Impacts

In a major victory for advocates of regulatory action to address climate change, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected challenges to the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species.  In Re:  Polar Bear Endangered Species Listing and Section 4(d) Rule Litigation (D.C. Cir. No. 11-5219, March 1, 2013).  … Continue Reading

President Obama and Department of the Interior Signal Potential Shift in Critical Habitat Policy

In two recent actions, President Obama and the Fish and Wildlife Service have signaled what may be an important shift in the Obama Administration’s position on the designation of critical habitat for endangered and threatened species. On February 28, 2012, the President issued a memorandum (pdf) directing the Interior Department to propose modifying the Department’s … Continue Reading
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