Posts in Legislation.

In recent weeks, the Trump Administration and Congress have proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and its implementing regulations. Lawmakers from the Congressional Western Caucus introduced nine bills that would, according to the 15 legislators that introduced the bills, amend and modernize the ESA.  The lawmakers assert that the bills would also incentivize voluntary conservation efforts, let states enter into cooperative agreements for recovery, and prioritize data from local communities in making scientific decisions about conservation.

The bills ...

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Posted in Legislation

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. 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 ...

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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 ...

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On April 11, 2018, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law H.B. 2238, which amended the state’s administrative procedure laws to provide that courts are not required to defer to an agency’s legal interpretation in lawsuits over administrative decisions. The amendment effectively eliminated Chevron deference, which requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation of an ambiguous statute.

The legal doctrine—named for the 1984 Supreme Court decision in Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Natural Resource Defense Counsel, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-844 ...

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On March 16, 2018, Nossaman Environment and Land Use Law Partner Svend Brandt-Erichsen will be serving as a member of the faculty for The Seminar Group’s CLE and Foresters program Pacific Northwest Timberlands Management: Regulations, Litigation, and Business Considerations. 

The full conference, held from March 15-16, 2018, at the Portland, Oregon World Trade Center, will also be available via live webcast and on demand following the live presentation.  Mr. Brandt-Erichsen’s presentation, entitled Practice Pointers for Energy Projects on Timberlands, will take place at 2:30 p.m. PT and will cover:  energy project permitting needs and timelines; potential wildlife impacts and related mitigation needs; and providing construction access and access during the project’s operating life.

Additional topics to be addressed at the conference include:

On November 8, 2017, the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources approved an amendment to oil and gas-related legislation, the SECURE Act (H.R. 4239), that is intended to obviate liability for the incidental or accidental take of migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, 16 U.S.C. § 703 et seq. (Act).  The amendment, submitted by Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY), provides: This Act shall not be construed to prohibit any activity proscribed by section 2 of this Act that is accidental or incidental to the presence or operation of an otherwise lawful ...

In July we reported on five bills that propose to amend various aspects of the Endangered Species Act:

  • H.R. 2603 - would remove listings of non-native species;
  • H.R. 717 - would modify the process for listing determinations;
  • H.R. 3131 - would require a party to prevail in order to recover attorneys' fees and place a cap on fees;
  • H.R. 1274 - would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make listing determination data available to impacted states; and
  • H.R. 424 - would require the Department of the Interior to reissue final rules relating to the listing of the gray wolf in the ...
Posted in Legislation

On July 19, 2017, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a full committee legislative hearing on five bills that would amend portions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

  • H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson; D-MN) – This bill would require the Department of Interior to reissue the final rules relating to the listing of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming.
  • H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olsen; R-TX) – This bill would remove the 90-day and 12-month deadlines for making listing determinations and allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries ...
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On January 20, 2017, Reince Priebus, the White House Chief of Staff and Assistant to the President, issued a memorandum to the heads of all executive departments and agencies ordering them to freeze the processing of all regulations.  The stated intent of this action is to ensure that the President’s appointees or designees have the opportunity to review any new or pending regulations.  At the outset, the memo states that, with the exception of regulations addressing any emergency situations or urgent circumstances relating to health, safety, financial, or national security ...

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On December 27, 2016, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) issued its final Endangered Species Act (ESA) Compensatory Mitigation Policy (Policy) – the first policy to comprehensively address compensatory mitigation under the ESA.  The Policy applies to all forms of compensatory mitigation involving ESA compliance required or recommended by FWS, including conservation banks, in-lieu fee programs, permittee-responsible mitigation, and other third-party mitigation mechanisms.  It is a step-down policy addressing the compensatory mitigation component of the mitigation ...

In a year that has already seen its fair share of attempts to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA), another proposal has made its way into the House of Representatives.  Representatives Don Young (R-Alaska) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 5650) on July 7, 2016.  The bill is based on a plan unveiled by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources four months ago.

H.R. 5650 would direct approximately $1.3 billion each year from federal energy and mineral development revenues into state-led ...

As recently reported by the Center for Biological Diversity, a rider has been proposed for an appropriations bill that would provide $1.5 billion to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017.  The controversial rider would remove current Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolf populations in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Wyoming.  The appropriations bill, which is currently making its way through the House of Representatives, was before the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies on May 25, 2016 ...

On May, 17, 2016, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Subcommittee on Water and Energy held hearings on a number of pending bills, including S. 2533, sponsored by Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA).  The bill, titled California Long-Term Provisions for Water Supply and Short-Term Provisions for Emergency Drought Relief Act, is aimed at providing short-term water supplies to drought-stricken California and providing for long-term investments in drought resiliency throughout the Western United States.

Among its many provisions, S. 2533 invests $1.3 ...

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Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake (R) and Rep. Matt Salmon (R) recently introduced a bill (pdf) that would remove several western states from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and move them to a newly created Twelfth Circuit.  If the bill is passed as drafted, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands would remain in the Ninth Circuit.  The new Twelfth Circuit would be comprised of Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, and Nevada.

Two other senators also introduced similar legislation (pdf).  Under the bill proposed by Montana Sen. Steve ...

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On January 20, 2015, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, which complements the bill reported by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee late last year.  However, the Environment and Public Works Committee’s approval adds a number of controversial amendments to the Act’s overarching purpose of increasing recreational hunting, fishing, shooting, conservation, and other access on public lands.  An amendment offered by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and approved by voice vote, would delist ...

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill last week to help address ongoing and future drought in California. The bill, known as the California Emergency Drought Relief Act (Act), is expected to be folded into broader legislation addressing the historic drought in the Western United States. The bill’s goals are to move existing water supplies and develop new  water sources in order to help those communities suffering the worst effects of the drought, while complying with the existing regulatory regime under the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Senator ...

Whether dealing with water or with endangered species directly, there have been a number of recent developments that are worth keeping on your radar.  Below is a quick summary of some of the more significant items:

July 16, 2015 - The House of Representative, in a largely partisan vote, passed H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015, by a vote of  245-176.  The Act, which is intended to ease some of the effects of the unprecedented drought gripping California, requires, among other things, for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National ...

Governor Brown has announced the nomination of Eric Sklar and Anthony Williams to serve on the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission).  The five-member Commission is established under article IV, section 20 of the California Constitution.  Under section 200 of the Fish and Game Code, the Commission has the power to regulate the taking or possession of birds, mammals, fish, amphibia, and reptiles.  Among other things, the Commission enacts hunting and sport-fishing regulations and determines whether to list and de-list species under the California Endangered Species ...

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On May 6, 2015, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on several Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform bills, including at least three that are similar to bills introduced in 2014 in the House of Representatives.  The bills that were discussed include the following:

  • S.112 – Entitled the Common Sense in Species Protection Act of 2015, the bill would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider short-term economic costs when protecting critical habitat for endangered species.
  • S.292 – Entitled the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency ...
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On April 27, 2015, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released the text (pdf) of the National Defense Authorization Act (Act), including language that would ban the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) from issuing its listing decision for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through September 30, 2025.  The Act would also limit the application of federal conservation plans for the species.

As we previously reported, the greater sage-grouse is a candidate species under the ESA.  In 2010, the Service ...

Last week, Washington State Representative Dan Newhouse introduced the Pacific Northwest Gray Wolf Management Act (H.R. 1985), which would remove Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) within Washington, Oregon, and Utah.  H.R. 1985 is the third bill  introduced in the 114th Congress (2015-2016) proposing to delist the gray wolf within specified states.  H.R. 843 and H.R. 884, introduced in February, would effectively delist gray wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan and in the Western Great Lakes region and ...

In a landmark executive order (pdf) issued on April 1, 2015, Governor Jerry Brown mandated a 25 percent water cutback for urban residents to address the state’s historic drought. Gov. Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to impose restrictions to achieve a statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage … as compared to the amount used in 2013. Local agencies may decide how to get customers to reduce consumption, with higher rates being a likely option. The state intends to impose penalties on local agencies that fail to comply with the water restriction ...

On March 26, 2015, House of Representatives Republican Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced a bill (H.R. 1667) to amend Section 4(b) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to require the Secretary of Interior to make publicly available on the Internet the best scientific and commercial data available that are the basis for reach regulation, including each proposed regulation for listing decisions regarding endangered or threatened status for wildlife and plant species.  H.R. 1667 does not require the Secretary of the Interior to post information that is prohibited from disclosure ...

On January 28, 2015, Congressman Bill Flores (R-TX) introduced House Bill H.R. 585 (pdf), which seeks to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) to establish a new procedure for approval of certain stipulated consent decrees between the federal government and third parties.  Specifically, in cases brought under the ESA's citizen suit provision (16 U.S.C. § 1540(g)), H.R. 585 would require that parties interested in intervening in a lawsuit would have 30 days to intervene, during which time the parties in the case would not be able to file a motion for a consent decree or to ...

On July 29, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform legislation introduced by members of the House Natural Resources Committee. As previously reported, the legislation consists of four bills seeking to amend the ESA by, among other things, requiring federal agencies to release to the public all data used to make its listing decisions, disclosing the amount of federal funds used in ESA-related lawsuits, and requiring that the best scientific and commercial data available include information provided by state, tribal, and county ...

Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act (H.R. 2919), which would amend existing law to require the Executive Branch to provide an annual report to Congress on the amount of fees and other expenses awarded to prevailing parties, other than the United States, in certain administrative proceedings and civil suits, including certain lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act and other environmental statutes.  The Act would require the report to account for all payments of fees and other expenses awarded made pursuant to a ...

Posted in Legislation

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), Pub. L. 112-141, governs Federal funding and authorization for certain surface transportation projects.  Included in MAP-21 is a provision requiring all Federal agencies with approval authority over a specific category of transportation projects to render a decision on an expedited basis.  23 U.S.C. 139 (h)(6).  Specifically, MAP-21 states that when the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and/or Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) are required to prepare an environmental impact statement or ...

Republican Congressman Chris Stewart (UT) recently introduced a bill (pdf) that would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to require federal wildlife agencies to include the number of species found on state, tribal, and private lands in its official count when determining whether a species should be protected under the ESA.  Currently, the ESA does not include a specific requirement regarding how to account for a species’ population.  Rather, federal agencies are required to use the best scientific and commercial data available when determining whether a species is ...

Members of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Congressional Working Group recently released a final report (pdf) asserting that the ESA is not working and providing four recommendations for improvement.

The report is the result of an eight-month effort led by Republican Representatives Doc Hastings (WA) and Cynthia Lummis (WY) to examine the ESA. The group received input from hundreds of individuals on how the ESA is currently being implemented, and whether it could be updated to be more effective. The report concludes that [a]fter more than 40 years, sensible, targeted reforms ...

Posted in Legislation

The U.S. Senate is set to consider exempting three antelope species from protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), the dama gazelle (Gazella dama), and the addax antelope (Addax nasomaculatus) - affectionately known as the Three Amigos - were exempted from 2005 until 2012, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relisted the species as endangered.

On January 15, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a $1.1 trillion spending bill (pdf) that would fund the federal government through the remainder of fiscal year 2014. Included in ...

Posted in Legislation

A bill (pdf) to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—entitled the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act (Bill)—has been introduced in the United States Senate. The Bill, authored by Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.) and by Representative Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), seeks to make two fundamental changes to the ESA: to alter the balance of power between states and the federal government, and to provide new property rights to landowners impacted by the ESA.

First, the Bill would tip the balance of authority to manage protected ...

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On September 20, 2013, H.R. 1526, the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act (pdf), was passed by the House of Representatives by a vote of 244-173. Shortly thereafter, the bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Notably, H.R. 1526 includes provisions that, for certain projects authorized under the bill, would alter the way interagency consultation is conducted under section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and would foreclose parties from seeking relief in federal court prior to obtaining a final, unappealable decision on the merits.

The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Wash,) and has 22 co-sponsors. Its principal stated purpose is to restore employment and educational opportunities in, and improve the economic stability of, counties containing National Forest System land, while also reducing Forest Service management costs, by ensuring that such counties have a dependable source of revenue from National Forest System land. Section 103(a) of the bill calls for the Secretary of Agriculture to designate Forest Reserve Revenue Areas for each unit in the National Forest System. Section 104(a) authorizes and encourages the Secretary to commence covered forest reserve projects in Forest Reserve Revenue Areas.

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee is holding a full committee oversight hearing on species conservation efforts undertaken at on-the-ground-levels in an effort to compare those efforts with the effectiveness of Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits. The hearing, entitled Defining Species Conservation Success: Tribal, State and Local Stewardship vs. Federal Courtroom Battles and Sue-and-Settle Practices, is the first in a series of hearings planned by the House to review the effectiveness of conservation efforts under the ESA.

Natural Resources Committee ...

Posted in Legislation

The State of Idaho enacted a law (pdf) this spring asserting that the State has primacy over the management of fish and wildlife. The law was introduced as Senate Bill 1061 and signed into law by Governor Butch Otter on March 22, 2013. In addition, the law states that introduction or reintroduction of any federally listed species onto lands within the state or into state waters, including those actions that would impair or impede the state's primacy over its land and water, without state consultation and approval is against the policy of the state of Idaho. The law plainly is intended to ...

Posted in Legislation

On January 31, 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a proposed rule to regulate the impact of United States Navy exercises on marine mammals.  The rule would affect areas off the Southern California, Atlantic, and Hawaiian coastlines.

The proposed rule is in response to the Navy’s request for authorization to incidentally take (e.g., harm or kill) 62 species of marine mammals as a result of training exercises.  The proposed rule would authorize over 31 million takes during a five-year period.

All of the 62 species at issue are protected under the Marine ...

Posted in Legislation

Recently, House Representatives John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), Jerry McNerney (D-Stockton, CA), Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento, CA), George Miller (D-Martinez, CA), and Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena, CA) introduced H.R. 6484 (pdf), a bill entitled the SAFE Levee Act. The bill would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide assistance to local interests for levee stability improvements within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and require the Secretary of the Interior to carry out a cost-benefit analysis of water conveyance options being considered in the Bay Delta ...

Posted in Legislation

Part I: Assembly Bill 2402 (Huffman)

On September 25, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2402 and Senate Bill 1148, which make a number of changes to the Fish and Game Code, into law.  AB 2402 was sponsored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman and SB 1148 by Senator Pavely and these bills will implement a number of recommendations that emerged from a Strategic Vision process for the Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission that took place during 2011 and 2012.  SB 1148 will be discussed in Part II of this update.

The key provisions of AB 2402 are described below.

  • Section 8 ...
Posted in Legislation

Governor Brown signed a bill into law that generally makes it unlawful to permit or allow a dog to pursue a bear or bobcat at any time. The bill, introduced as SB 1221 by State Senator Ted Lieu, is intended to curb the use of dogs to hunt bears or bobcats.  Debate over the bill divided both houses of the California legislature.  David Siders reported that "[t]he legislation pitted wildlife advocates against hunters at the California Capitol – the former raising concerns about the humane treatment of animals, the latter about urban elitism" (Sacramento Bee, Sept. 27, 2012).

The bill to ban ...

Posted in Legislation, Listing

On June 8, 2011, Senator Inhofe (R-OK) filed an amendment (SA 429 (pdf)) to S. 782, the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, that would amend section 4 of the Endangered Species Act to exempt the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) from protection under the Act.  According to Inhofe, if the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were to list the lesser prairie-chicken, it would greatly restrict the development of wind energy in Oklahoma.

Senator Inhofe's proposed amendment comes on the heels of Senator Cornyn's proposed amendment (SA 396 (pdf)) to S. 782 ...

Posted in Legislation, Listing

Senator Cornyn (R-Texas) has filed an amendment to S. 782 (pdf), a bill entitled the Economic Development Revitalization Act of 2011, that would block the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) as endangered.

The amendment would make good on half of the proposal of House Republicans from West Texas and southeastern New Mexico earlier this Spring (blogged about here) to use legislation to exempt the lizard and the lesser prarie chicken from the Endangered Species Act.

Opponents of the proposed rule (pdf) to list ...

On May 11, Representatives Nunes, Denham, and McCarthy introduced H.R. 1837 (pdf) "to address water-related concerns on the San Joaquin River, and for other purposes."  A section by section analysis is available here (pdf).

Title I of the bill includes a number of proposed amendments to the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), 106 Stat. 4706.  Among other things, it eliminates non-native fish including striped bass from the list of "anadromous fish" that are protected by the CVPIA and it facilitates water transfers.  This title also:

  • specifies that all Endangered ...

On March 30, Representatives Cardoza and Costa introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1251, entitled the More Water for our Valley Act.  The purpose of the bill is to "provide congressional direction for implementation of the Endangered Species Act as it relates to operation of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project and for water relief in the State of California."  To accomplish this purpose, the bill would modify certain existing restrictions on Central Valley Project and State Water Project operations until March 1, 2015, which were ...

The February 2011 edition of Environmental Management includes an article I co-authored with Dr. Dennis Murphy entitled, The Route to Best Science in Implementation of the Endangered Species Act’s Consultation Mandate: The Benefits of Structured Effects Analysis.  The principle purpose of the article is to facilitate the development of rigorous effects analyses under the consultation provisions in section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  In the article, we "assess effects analysis as a tool for using best science to guide agency decisions under the Act ...

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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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