Sarah Wells

Sarah Wells

Sarah Wells focuses her practice primarily on natural resources law, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). She also addresses federal public lands issues and has experience in Texas and local environmental and land use laws. Ms. Wells currently advises electric utility and renewable energy industry groups on federal wildlife issues and counsels potential investors in renewable energy projects on adherence to federal wildlife laws. She also advises interstate pipeline projects on federal wildlife concerns and assists in the development of habitat conservation plans and species conservation banking initiatives.

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Texas Cactus and Three Other Species Proposed for Downlisting or Delisting by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

On December 28, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to reclassify the Tobusch fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus brevihamatus ssp. tobuschii), downlisting the species from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service concluded that, while the Cactus is not in danger of extinction, it is likely to … Continue Reading

Second-Ever Eagle Programmatic Take Permit Soon To Be Granted For California Wind Energy Facility

On November 1, 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its plan to issue what will be only the second programmatic eagle take permit under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA) permit program since the program’s establishment in 2009.  Programmatic permits may be sought to authorize eagle take that is associated with, but is not … Continue Reading

ESA Roundup – Listing Decisions and Recovery Actions

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) have issued listing decisions on a number of species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in recent days, and USFWS has announced notable changes in its recovery strategy for the red wolf. On September 7, 2016, USFWS reopened the comment period for its … Continue Reading

Texas Hornshell Mussel Proposed for Listing Under Endangered Species Act

On August 10, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issued a proposed rule to list the Texas hornshell (Popenaias popeii), a freshwater mussel, as an endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The species has been on the candidate species list for over a decade, and the proposed rule meets a listing … Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Upholds USFWS Designation of “Uninhabitable” Critical Habitat for Endangered Dusky Gopher Frog

In a 2-1 decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected challenges to the final rule designating critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog (Rana sevosa) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and National Environmental Policy Act.  Markle Interests, L.L.C. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, No. 14-31008 (5th Cir. June … Continue Reading

Circuit Courts Tackle Question of Agency Liability Under the MBTA for Permitting of Wind Energy Facilities

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected plaintiffs’ claim, among others, that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) by granting a right-of-way to a private company to develop and operate a wind energy facility.  Protect Our Communities Foundation v. Jewell, … Continue Reading

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Appeal Abandoned

After filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit less than two weeks prior, on May 10, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) filed an unopposed motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal of the district court decision that vacated the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) as threatened under … Continue Reading

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Designates Critical Habitat for 125 Hawaiian Species

On March 30, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) issued a final rule designating critical habitat for 125 species listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) on the Hawaiian islands of Molokai, Maui, and Kahoolawe.  The rule designated critical habitat for 50 plant and animal species, and revised critical … Continue Reading

NMFS Designates Critical Habitat for Two Salmonid Populations in Pacific Northwest

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule on February 24, 2016 designating critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for two threatened species—lower Columbia River coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and Puget Sound steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss).   NMFS designated approximately 2,300 stream miles of freshwater and estuarine habitat in Oregon and Washington for … Continue Reading
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