Posts from 2020

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") recently released a pre-publication version of its final rule to reclassify the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).  The final rule will also include 4(d) rule provisions that specify when the ESA section 9 take prohibitions will apply to the beetle.

The American burying beetle, which gets its name from its tendency to burrow under vegetation or into soil during the daytime and throughout the winter hibernation season, is the largest ...

Posted in Litigation
Environmental Groups Allege Illegal Take of Sea Turtles by Florida Resorts

A pair of non-profit organizations recently served a 60-day notice of intent (Notice) to file a citizen suit against Hilton Hotels, Bahia Mar Resorts, and the Suntex Marinas (collectively, the Resorts) under section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the alleged take of the loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) and green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) in Florida. ESA section 9 prohibits the unpermitted “take” of any endangered species, and the ESA defines “take” as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect,” or an attempt to do ...

USFWS Proposes Rule Codifying “Critical Habitat” Exclusion Analysis

On September 8, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule codifying procedures for excluding areas of “critical habitat” under section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). ESA section 4(b)(2) provides discretionary authority to the USFWS and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), as administrators of the ESA, to exclude certain areas from critical habitat designations for species within their purview. These agencies can exclude areas from a critical habitat designation where the agencies conclude the benefits of excluding the areas ...

Kangaroo Rat: From Endangered to Threatened

On August 19, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule that would remove the Stephens’ kangaroo rat (Dipodomys stephensi) from the federal list of Endangered Species. The proposed rule would, instead, list the kangaroo rat as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and would provide a rule under ESA section 4(d) to provide for conservation of the kangaroo rat.

The Stephens’ kangaroo rat was originally listed as an endangered species in 1988. It is a small, nocturnal mammal, with external cheek pouches, large hind legs, a long tail ...

PODCAST | Engage the Experts: The Shifting Landscape of Renewable Energy Development

We recently recorded a podcast as part of the Environmental Law Institute’s (ELI) People Places Planet Podcast series “Engage the Experts.” In our recent discussion entitled “The Shifting Landscape of Renewable Energy Development,” we discuss recent changes in environmental regulations and related court decisions that are impacting project development, as well as what this shifting terrain means for the development, expansion and maintenance of renewable energy technologies. Tune in to learn about what recent regulatory and judicial developments mean for ...

California Fish and Game Commission Defers Decision on Joshua Tree

The California Fish and Game Commission deferred the decision on whether to make the western Joshua tree a candidate for listing to a special meeting in September 2020. In a hearing on August 20, 2020, the Commission heard a wide variety of perspectives on whether listing the species may be warranted. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s 90-day evaluation recommended a “may be warranted” finding but at the hearing Director Bonham indicated he was open to deferring the decision in order to work with the stakeholders ... 

Court Reignites Migratory Bird Treaty Act Question

On August 11, 2020, a federal district court in New York ruled that the unintentional or incidental “take” of migratory birds is a crime under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”), vacating a Department of the Interior Solicitor’s Opinion (M-37050, referred to as an M-Opinion), which had determined that the MBTA does not apply to incidental take.

The now-vacated M-Opinion, issued by the Trump Administration in December 2017, had withdrawn and replaced an earlier M-Opinion issued in the last days of the Obama Administration (Opinion M-37041), which had interpreted the ...

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Federal Wildlife Agencies Propose Rule to Define Habitat

The Departments of Commerce and the Interior (Departments) have completed a proposed rule to define the term “habitat” as that term is used in the context of designating “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed rule will soon be published in the Federal Register. Upon publication, the public will be given 30 days to submit comments. If finalized, the definition will be included in the joint regulations developed by the two Departments to implement section 4(a)(3)(A)(i) of the ESA. The ESA, itself, defines the term “critical habitat” but ...

Ninth Circuit Rejects Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Delisting

For the second time in a decade, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has invalidated a decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to remove the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) population from the federal endangered species list.  Crow Indian Tribe v. State of Wyoming, Case No. 18-36038 (9th Cir. July 8, 2020).  In 2011, the Ninth Circuit invalidated the decision to delist the Greater Yellowstone grizzly population because the evidence did not support the Service’s conclusion that the decline of white bark pine did not threaten the ...

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WEBINAR: Key CEQA Compliance Considerations for Vehicle Miles Traveled Analyses

Please join us on August 4th from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. PT for “Key CEQA Compliance Considerations for Vehicle Miles Traveled Analyses.” This complimentary webinar will examine the California Natural Resources Agency’s new guidelines for traffic and transportation impacts analyses under CEQA through legal, planning and technical perspectives. We will be joined by well-known transit practitioners Keith Greer, Senior Environmental Planner at the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and Ronald Milam, Principal at the transportation planning firm Fehr & ...

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.

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