The Klamath River Renewal Corporation (the "corporation") recently submitted a plan for the removal of four dams on the lower Klamath River to the Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC). In it, the corporation indicates its intent to sidestep compliance with the California Endangered Species Act and California’s Lake and Streambed Alteration Program by asking FERC to opine that those state law requirements are preempted by federal law. Among other things, these laws protect the critically endangered Lost River sucker (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose sucker ...
The U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico granted New Mexico’s motion for summary judgment in a case brought by the Humane Society seeking to invalidate State trapping regulations related to cougars (Puma concolor). Plaintiffs argued that the regulations, which amended existing regulations that authorize trapping of cougars, violate the Endangered Species Act’s prohibition on take of protected species. Plaintiffs reasoned that the amended regulations would inevitably cause the take of listed Mexican wolves (Canis lupus baileyi) since cougars and wolves ...
On July 9, 2018, President Trump nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to replace retiring Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. While much of the public discourse about Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination has focused on hot-button issues like abortion and the Second Amendment, the addition of Justice Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could also have significant effects on a range of environmental laws and regulations, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
One of Judge Kavanaugh’s most well-known environmental opinions is from Otay Mesa Property, L.P. v. Interior, 646 F.3d 914 (D.C. Cir. 2011). In Otay Mesa, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) had observed four endangered San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis) in one location on a dirt road on the plaintiffs’ 143-acre property. Based on that single observation, the Service designated the plaintiffs’ property as occupied habitat for purposes of its critical habitat designation under the ESA. The D.C. Circuit held that substantial evidence did not support the Service’s designation of critical habitat for the San Diego fairy shrimp. Judge Kavanaugh explained that while the Service may protect areas outside of the geographic range occupied by an ESA-protected species as essential to the species’ conservation, it had instead asserted that this was occupied habitat for the fairy shrimp. Judge Kavanaugh found that a single observation of a species did not provide sufficient evidence that the area was occupied habitat. And while the Service was under no requirement to continue looking for the endangered shrimp, Judge Kavanaugh noted that the lack of such an obligation is not the same as an authorization to act without data to support its conclusions. 646 F.3d at 918. This opinion suggests that Judge Kavanaugh is likely to narrowly interpret the provisions of the ESA.
Similarly, Justice Kavanaugh’s position on Chevron deference may have wide ranging consequences for environmental statutes, including the ESA.
The most comprehensive Endangered Species Act (ESA) bill of this Congressional session made its debut on July 2, 2018 when Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, released a discussion draft of a bill proposing sweeping revisions to the ESA. The discussion draft is a culmination of activity that began February 15, 2017, when the EPW committee held an oversight hearing on modernization of the ESA. Following that hearing, Senator Barrasso worked closely with the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in drafting the ...
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act (Act) (H.R. 2083), co-sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), allowing for the lethal removal of California and Steller sea lions (Zalophus californianus and Eumetopias jubatus) to protect endangered salmon (populations of Oncorhynchus nerka, Oncorhynchus kisutch, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, and Salmo salar), steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and other native fish species. The Act provides tribal members and government ...
On Monday, June 18, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced that it has initiated five year status reviews for fifty species in California, Nevada, and the Klamath Basin of Oregon, pursuant to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Included among the species whose ESA listing status is being reviewed are 19 animal species, four of which are currently listed as threatened, while the remaining 14 are currently listed as endangered. Additionally, the FWS is reviewing thirty-one plant species.
As part of its review, FWS will be accepting new information pertinent to the ...
In late May 2018, the Klamath Tribes filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to shut down the Bureau of Reclamation’s Klamath Irrigation Project, which supplies water to thousands of family farms in northern California and southern Oregon. The gravamen of the Tribes’ complaint is that two fish – the Lost River sucker and shortnose sucker – are in dire straits and threatened with extinction by diversion of water from Upper Klamath Lake to support farming. On the heels of filing their complaint, the Tribes filed a ...
On May 16, 2018, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed six bills, including the Federally Integrated Species Health Act (H.R. 3916). H.R. 3916 is sponsored by Representative Ken Calvert, a Republican representing the 42nd Congressional District in California. The bill proposes to amend the federal Endangered Species Act to vest the Secretary of Interior with Endangered Species Act authority over fish species that migrate between fresh and ocean waters, such as the endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinnok salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha). ...
On Friday, May 18, 2018, agencies and organizations throughout the United States will celebrate the 13th annual Endangered Species Day, which recognizes conservation efforts that protect our nation's imperiled species and their habitats. Events are scheduled throughout the country to celebrate our biodiversity and efforts to conserve that diversity.
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) finalized its reclassification of the Tobusch fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus brevihamatus ssp. tobuschii), a small cactus found in Texas, downlisting the species from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
As previously reported here, the Service concluded that downlisting the cactus was warranted given an increase in the number of observed individuals. While only 200 cactuses were known when the species was listed as endangered in 1979, the Service now estimates there are more than 3,300 ...
Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.
Stay ConnectedRSS Feed
- Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act
- Climate Change
- Construction Projects
- Continuing Education
- Court Decisions
- Critical Habitat
- Endangered Species Act
- Fish & Wildlife Service
- Freedom of Information Act
- Government Administration
- Migratory Bird
- National Marine Fisheries Service
- Pacific Northwest
- Regulatory Reform
- Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
- Speaking Engagements
- Supreme Court
- Water Issues