Posts in Litigation.
BOEM and NOAA Fisheries Announce Final North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy

On January 25, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries released a final North Atlantic Right Whale and Offshore Wind Strategy (the “Strategy”). The Strategy expresses the agencies’ joint goal of protecting and promoting the recovery of the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis) while responsibly developing offshore wind energy.

The North Atlantic right whale (NARW) population has declined significantly over the past decade. Population estimates through December 2022 indicate ...

CBD Lawsuit Challenges Service’s Failure to Prevent Toxic Pesticides from Harming Endangered Species

On February 1, 2024, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed an amended complaint (Complaint) in the U.S. District Court of Arizona, alleging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) failed to timely analyze the harmful effects of six pesticides on species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and their habitats. The lawsuit stems from the Service’s failure to issue biological opinions to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to that agency’s request for formal ESA section 7 consultation with the Service over the EPA’s 2017 and 2021 ...

Advocacy Groups Threaten Endangered Species Act Lawsuit Against Virginia Offshore Wind Project

On November 13, two advocacy organizations submitted a notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The notice letter alleges that the September 18, 2023 Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued by NMFS for the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because it fails to adequately analyze and mitigate the project's impacts on the endangered North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). … 

Federal Court Dismisses Fishing Industry Challenge to Massachusetts Offshore Wind Project

On Thursday, October 12, 2023, Judge Indira Talwani of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor of the United States Department of the Interior and Vineyard Wind, and denied summary judgment to the plaintiffs in two cases challenging federal authorizations for the Vineyard Wind project: Seafreeze Shoreside, Inc. v. U.S. Department of Interior (Seafreeze) and Responsible Offshore Development Alliance v. U.S. Department of Interior (RODA). In both cases, the plaintiffs sought to overturn the federal approvals for the ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Lists Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl as Threatened with a 4(d) Rule

On July 20, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule listing the cactus ferruginous pygmy-owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) (“Owl”) as a threatened subspecies with a 4(d) rule under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 4(d) rule prohibits the same activities prohibited for endangered species, but allows exemptions for certain education and outreach activities permitted under a Migratory Bird Treaty Act permit, surveying and monitoring in Arizona under a state scientific activity permit, and habitat restoration and enhancement ...

Services Propose New Regulatory Revisions Under the Endangered Species Act

On June 22, 2023, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, the Services), issued three sets of proposed revisions to their Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations addressing: (1) interagency consultations under ESA section 7; (2) the procedures and criteria for listing, reclassifying, delisting, and designating critical habitat for species under ESA section 4; and (3) reinstatement of USFWS’s blanket ESA section 4(d) rule which, prior to its repeal in 2019, extended the take prohibitions of ESA section 9 to all ...

D.C. Circuit Vacates Biological Opinion Built on Presumption in Favor of Listed Species

On June 16, 2023, in a highly anticipated decision, the United States Court of Appeal for the D.C. Circuit set aside a biological opinion regarding the effects of the federal lobster fishery on the North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis). The court held that a presumption in favor of an endangered species is not required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and, further, that such a presumption can distort the agency’s scientific judgment and did so in this circumstance.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued the biological opinion in 2021 analyzing the ...

Massachusetts Court Rejects Endangered Species Act Challenge to Offshore Wind Project

On May 17, 2023, the federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts granted summary judgment in favor of the United States Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Vineyard Wind and denied summary judgment to the plaintiffs in the case of Nantucket Residents Against Turbines v. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 21-cv-11390 (Talwani, J.). This is the first federal court decision upholding, on the merits, the federal government’s approval of a commercial-scale offshore wind project. There are three other cases pending that also seek to block the construction ...

Ninth Circuit Rules Service Improperly Designated Occupied, Unoccupied Critical Habitat for Jaguar

On May 17, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) issued its decision in Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Case No. 20-15654), a case in which a mining company challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) designation of certain areas in southern Arizona as critical habitat for the jaguar (Panthera onca) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The Ninth Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling that the Service improperly designated the challenged area as occupied critical habitat. With respect to the ...

Federal Court Allows Center for Biological Diversity to Continue Large ESA Lawsuit Against U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Last week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling allowing the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to continue pursuing its large Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the Department of the Interior.

The underlying lawsuit, filed in 2019, alleges that the Service violated the ESA by failing to timely publish 12-month findings on nearly 200 listing petitions, final listing determinations for six species, and designations of critical habitat for four species.  In response, the Service filed a ...

California Court Refuses to Dismiss ESA Challenge to Corps’ Operation of Coyote Valley Dam on Russian River

Recently, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a concerned citizen against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) alleging Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations in connection with the Corps’ operation of the Coyote Valley Dam on the Russian River in Northern California. The court opined that federal defendants cannot avoid having to defend their prior actions simply by initiating the consultation process under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA, and the equities ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Again Finds Listing of Joshua Trees Not Warranted

On March 9, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued its 12-month finding that listing Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia and Y. jaegeriana) as endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is not warranted. The 12-month finding was made to comply with a September 20, 2021 court-ordered remand of the Service’s previous “not warranted” finding in August 2019.

In September 2015, WildEarth Guardians submitted a petition to list the Joshua trees as threatened and, if applicable, designate critical habitat for the species. The Service issued ...

Ninth Circuit Holds Agency’s Decision Not to Modify a Recovery Plan is Not a Final Agency Action

Earlier this month, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling holding that the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) decision not to modify a recovery plan for the grizzly bear (ursus arctos horrbilis) was not a final agency action subject to review under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).

In 1975, the Service listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  At the time of listing, the grizzly bear’s population in the contiguous United States fell to between 700-800 individuals.  Pursuant to its ...

Ninth Circuit Remands 2019 Registration of Sulfoxaflor Back to EPA

On December 21, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2019 registration of the pesticide “sulfoxaflor” violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) by unconditionally expanding allowed uses of the pesticide to blooming crops and removing certain restrictions. The court held that the agency violated the ESA by not making an “effects” determination to trigger “consultation” with a wildlife agency and violated FIFRA by failing ...

Join Brooke Marcus and Svend Brandt-Erichsen at CLE International's 5th Annual MBTA & BGEPA Conference 

Join us during CLE International's 5th Annual MBTA & BGEPA Conference in Denver, CO from February 1-2, 2023. This two-day conference will explore the latest developments arising under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA).

Court Sends Endangered Species Act Regulations Back to the Agencies

On November 16, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (District Court) remanded three sets of Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations promulgated in 2019 under the Trump administration back to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (collectively, Services) for reconsideration. The three regulations addressed: how species are listed and delisted and critical habitat designated under ESA section 4; interagency consultation under ESA section 7; and a final rule repealing USFWS’s blanket ESA ...

Lesser Prairie-Chicken Back in Court

On October 25, 2022, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) over the agency’s failure to timely finalize a proposed rule to list the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LEPC). CBD seeks an order from the court declaring the Service is in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to timely list the LEPC and requiring the Service to publish one or more final rules by a date certain.

On June 1, 2021, and in response to a 2016 petition to list the LEPC, the Service proposed to list two distinct population ...

Bureau of Reclamation and Local Water Agency Have Discretion to Release Water from Dam to Avoid Take of Endangered Steelhead Trout

Reversing the district court, a divided panel of the Ninth Circuit held that that the Bureau of Reclamation and a local water agency have discretion to release water from Twitchell Dam on the Santa Maria River on the Central Coast of California to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act. San Luis Obispo Coastkeeper v. Santa Maria Valley Water Conservation Dist. (Ninth Cir. No. 21-55479, Sept. 23, 2022). The court concluded that a 1958 federal law (P.L. 774) authorizing the operation of the dam for purposes other than irrigation, flood control, and water conservation provided ...

Smoother Sailing for Eagles and Industry Ahead?

On September 30, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to amend its eagle permit regulations (Proposed Rule) administered in accordance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA). The Proposed Rule seeks to improve administration of the eagle permit program by establishing a general permit pathway for eligible wind energy and power line applicants for incidental take of golden eagles and bald eagles. Eligibility criteria proposed by the Service for participation in the general permit program include factors such as eagle ...

9th Circuit Puts ESA Rules Vacatur on Hold

On September 21, 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Ninth Circuit) stayed a July 5, 2022 order of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (District Court) vacating several Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations promulgated by the Trump Administration in 2019 (2019 Rules). In a brief order, the Ninth Circuit indicated the District Court “clearly” erred in vacating the 2019 Rules without first ruling on their underlying legal validity. As a result of the decision of the Ninth Circuit, the District Court’s vacatur of the 2019 Rules is ...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Agrees to Make Listing Decision on Dunes Sagebrush Lizard

On August 25, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) filed a stipulated settlement agreement (Agreement) in a case challenging the agency’s failure to timely make a 12-month finding on a petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (Scleroperus arenicolus) (Petition). Under the Agreement, the Service will submit a 12-month finding on the Petition to the Federal Register no later than June 29, 2023. The 12-month finding will determine whether listing the species is warranted (and will simultaneously issue a proposed rule to list the species), whether listing the ...

Service Proposes Listing and Critical Habitat Designation for Magnificent Snail

For the magnificent ramshorn (Planorbella magnifica), a fresh-water snail species native to southeastern North Carolina, efforts to secure protection under the federal Endangered Species Act have progressed at a snail’s pace. Today, twelve years after environmentalists originally petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to list the species, the Service proposed to list the magnificent ramshorn as endangered, and to designate two ponds spanning 739 acres as critical habitat for the species. The proposed rule was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the Center of ...

Court Vacates Trump-Era ESA Regulations

On July 5, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order vacating three Trump-era regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”).

In 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the “Services”) issued three final rules (“2019 ESA Rules”) modifying how the Services implement the ESA, including: (1) a rule under section 4 of the ESA concerning how the Services list, delist, and reclassify endangered or threatened species and the criteria for ...

Posted in Litigation
Happy the Elephant Denied Personhood

This week, the New York Court of Appeals rejected a bid for writ of habeas corpus from an unusual petitioner: Happy, a 51-year-old, female Asian elephant, currently living in captivity at the Bronx Zoo.

In its 5-2 opinion, the court held that habeas corpus only protects against the unlawful and indefinite imprisonment of human beings, and that Petitioner, the Nonhuman Rights Project, could not use the legal mechanism to bust Happy out of the zoo and into an elephant sanctuary.

Though the outcome of the case was not particularly surprising, it did feature some surprising elements—the ...

Dunes Sagebrush Lizard Back in Court

On May 19, 2022, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) failure to make a timely 12-month finding on the group’s petition to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (Sceloporus arenicolus) (DSL), which was submitted to the agency in 2018.

The DSL is no stranger to controversy. In 2002, CBD and others petitioned the Service to list the DSL due to alleged threats to the species’ habitat caused by oil and gas production. In 2004, the Service determined that ...

Federal Court Orders Service to Take a Third Look at Bi-State Sage Grouse Listing Status

On May 16, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California overturned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) March 31, 2020 withdrawal (2020 Withdrawal) of a proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing and section 4(d) rule for the “bi-state population” of the greater sage grouse (Bi-state Grouse). The Bi-state Grouse lives along the California-Nevada border within six population management units (PMUs) monitored by the Service.   

The Service proposed the Bi-state Grouse for listing as threatened in 2013, then later withdrew that proposal ...

Last Friday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued an order on competing motions in the coordinated cases challenging the 2019 biological opinions (BiOps) that govern operation of California’s State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project (Projects). The hefty order, which spanned over a hundred and twenty pages, attempted to distill the thousands of pages of briefing the parties submitted on the matter. Admittedly, stakes were high: these two Projects supply water to more than 25 million Californians and to farmers across the ...

On February 9, 2022, the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it failed to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) prior to approving oil and gas leases. BLM had issued the leases for parcels of land in Southwest Colorado located within Gunnison sage-grouse (Centrocercus minimus) habitat and other proposed and existing areas of environmental concern.

The ESA requires federal agencies to review federal actions “at the earliest possible time ...

California Court Maintains Protections for Western Joshua Tree

On February 16, 2022, a California state court upheld protections afforded the western Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The ruling came in connection with a lawsuit filed by the California Construction and Industrial Materials Association and others (Plaintiffs), alleging that the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) failed to abide by its own rules in finding a petition to list the western Joshua tree indicated listing the tree may be warranted. A Commission finding that listing a species under CESA may be warranted ...

District Court Reverses Trump-Era Rule, Restoring Gray Wolf ESA Protections

Last week, a decision out of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California restored Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for the gray wolf (Canis lupus) across most of the contiguous United States.

In 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) issued a final rule removing federal protections for the last two remaining gray wolf entities listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA.  The final rule asserted delisting was warranted because neither the Minnesota entity nor the 44-state entity qualified as a species, subspecies, or distinct population ...

On February 8, 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published findings on several petitions to list species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), some of which have been highly anticipated.

Pursuant to an August 2020 settlement agreement between the Service, WildEarth Guardians, and Western Watersheds Project, the Service published a 12-month finding on a petition to list the Sonoran desert tortoise (Gopherus morafkai). The tortoise is patchily distributed across 68,600 square miles in the Sonoran Desert ecoregion of Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. In its 12-month ...

Golden-Cheeked Warbler Back in Federal Court

On January 12, 2022, the General Land Office of Texas (GLO) filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) July 27, 2021 negative 90-day finding on a petition to delist the endangered golden-cheeked warbler (Setophaga chrysoparia) (Negative 90-day Finding). The Negative 90-day Finding is the second 90-day finding issued by the Service on the same petition to delist the golden-cheeked warbler.

GLO challenged the first 90-day finding, published on June 3, 2016, as arbitrary and capricious on ...

Diminutive Desert Owl Makes Big Waves

On December 22, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed to list the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) (Owl) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) primarily due to threats from climate change and habitat loss and fragmentation. The Service has also proposed to issue an ESA section 4(d) rule which would prohibit “take” of the Owl in most cases, while exempting from the prohibition certain land management activities compatible with restoration and improvement of Owl habitat where such activities have been ...

Conservation Group Sues USFWS over Protections for Two California Fish Species

Last week, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleging that the agency violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when it failed to timely determine whether the Santa Ana speckled dace (hinichthys osculus ssp.) and the Long Valley speckled dace (Rhinichthys osculus ssp.) warrant listing as endangered or threatened species. … 

USFWS Lists Alabama Crayfish Species as Endangered, Designates 78 Miles of River as Critical Habitat

On September 8, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("USFWS") published a final rule in the Federal Register listing the slenderclaw crayfish as endangered under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") and identifying approximately 78 miles of river in DeKalb and Marshall Counties, Alabama as critical habitat for the species.

The slenderclaw crayfish is a small freshwater crustacean that is endemic to streams on Sand Mountain within the Tennessee River Basin in Alabama. Most of the slenderclaw crayfish’s natural habitat was flooded when the Tennessee River was dammed in 1939 to ...

On August 18, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“Service”) published in the Federal Register a final rule designating more than 1,315 acres across 14 units as critical habitat (“Final Rule”) for two neotenic salamander species known only from Williamson and Bell Counties, Texas: the Georgetown salamander (Eurycea naufragia) and Salado salamander (Eurycea chisholmensis).  The species are “neotenic” because they do not transform into a terrestrial form and instead spend their entire life cycle in water.  The Final Rule was published in accordance with a ...

Ninth Circuit Tosses NWP 12 Appeal

On August 11, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted partial vacatur of an appeal brought by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) challenging a district court decision to vacate and enjoin use of the 2017 version of nationwide permit 12 (NWP 12).

The underlying lawsuit was brought by Northern Plains Resource Council against the Corps over the Corps’ authorization of impacts to waters of the United States under NWP 12 in connection with the Keystone XL pipeline. In April 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana vacated NWP 12 throughout the ...

WEBINAR: Linear Infrastructure Redux: Adapting Your Projects to Meet the New Regulatory Climate

Linear infrastructure projects, including oil and gas pipelines, electric transmission lines and transportation, have faced a number of regulatory challenges over the last year. Some of these challenges stem from changes in regulatory schemes, adverse court holdings or drastically shifting policy initiatives. Others result from the uncertainty inherent in pending listing decisions under the Endangered Species Act, updates to the Nationwide Permitting Program under the Clean Water Act, the ever-changing definition of Waters of the United States and the Biden ...

SCOTUS Won’t Wade Into the Chicken Coop

On June 7, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court (“SCOTUS”) agreed with the Department of Justice and declined to hear a case brought by the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (Coalition) challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) failure to submit the Policy for the Evaluation of Conservation Efforts (PECE) Policy to Congress under the Congressional Review Act (CRA).  The case, which represents a unique intersection between the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) (LEPC), the Service’s PECE Policy, and the CRA, appears to foreclose the ability ...

Biden Administration Asks Supreme Court to Reject Challenge to ESA Rule

On May 14, 2021, the Department of Justice filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that the Court should not hear the case of Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior (“KNRC”). KNRC is a challenge to a rule interpreting the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) that was jointly issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“USFWS”) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (“NMFS”) (collectively, the “Services”) in 2003: The “Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions,”(68 Fed. Reg. 15,100 ...

D.C. Circuit Shuts Down Challenge to Species Status Assessments

In a per curiam decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) process for assessing the status of species to inform regulatory decisions with respect to those species.  That process, referred to as species status assessment (SSA), is akin to a biological risk assessment for the target species.  It has been developed by the Service over the past several years and provides a more structured approach to assessing listing, delisting, uplisting, and ...

Ninth Circuit Strikes Down ESA 30-Day Listing Petition Rule

On May 17, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) rule requiring that affected states receive a 30-day notice of an intent to file a petition to list a species as endangered or threatened is inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). See Friends of Animals v. Haaland, Case No. 20-35318 (9th Cir. May 17, 2021); 50 C.F.R. § 424.14(b).

In reaching its decision, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the Service’s rulemaking under a two-step framework established by the Supreme Court in the landmark case Chevron U. S ...

Court Rejects Challenge to Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan

In December 2020, the United States District Court for the District of Montana issued an order on cross-motions for summary judgment concluding that it lacked jurisdiction—under both the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA)—to hear a lawsuit involving an environmental group’s denied request to update an existing recovery plan for the grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt, CV 19-109-M-DLC, at 26 (D. Mont. Dec. 23, 2020) (Order). After listing the grizzly bear nearly half a century ago, the U.S ...

Federal Wildlife Agencies Release Final Rule Defining “Habitat”

On December 15, 2020, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the agencies) released a pre-publication version of a final rule providing a definition of “habitat” for the purpose of informing designation of areas as “critical habitat” under the Endangered Species Act.  The agencies released a proposed rule defining habitat in August 2020 in response to a unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2019 overturning a lower court decision that upheld a controversial determination of critical habitat by the U.S. Fish and ...

NEPA Recap

If you were unable to attend our recent webinar, “The New NEPA Regulations: A Practical Guide to What You Need to Know,” please check out the recording of our on-demand webinar, which can be accessed here. Additionally, we invite you to download the compilation of our eAlert series on the NEPA rewrite here.

Nossaman will continue to monitor litigation and other regulatory developments regarding NEPA in 2021 as we transition into a new Administration. Please stay tuned to our blog and subscribe to our mailing lists here in order to receive the latest updates on NEPA and other issues ...

Posted in Listing, Litigation
Fish and Game Commission Violated Law by Seeking to Protect Bees under CESA

The Sacramento Superior Court upheld a challenge to a decision by the California Fish and Game Commission to designate four subspecies of bumble bees as candidates for protection under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The decision in Almond Alliance et al. v. California Fish and Game Commission reinforces a long line of authority dating back several decades suggesting that insects are not subject to protection under CESA. It also reflects respect for the role of the coordinate branches of government in formulating, executing and interpreting the laws that the ...

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 ...

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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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: Adapting Your Linear Infrastructure Projects to Changing Regulatory Frameworks

Please join us for a complimentary webinar on July 30, 2020 from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. PT, where we will discuss the path for energy providers to move forward and reduce the risk that projects may be delayed or scrapped down the road. We will examine...

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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