Posts tagged Court Decisions.
Posted in Court Decisions

In Conservation Congress v. U.S. Forest Service, No. CIV. 2:12-02416 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 2013), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California denied (pdf) a motion brought by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to limit review of claims brought under the citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the administrative record.  The court denied defendants' motion because it "would be premature to determine at this early stage of the proceedings" whether plaintiffs' claims should be strictly limited to ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On March 5, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered Natural Resources Defense Council v. Salazar, 1:05-cv-01207, to be reheard en banc pursuant to Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 35(a) and Circuit Rule 35-3. Environmental groups brought the action against the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), asserting Reclamation violated section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by renewing 41 water supply contracts without consulting with various Central Valley Project (CVP) water users.

In July 2012, a three-judge panel in the Ninth ...

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On February 27, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed (pdf) the dismissal of a Fifth Amendment takings claim based on the finding that the claim was "not ripe."  The claim is unusual because it arose in the context of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Casitas Municipal Water District (Casitas) has a contract with the federal Bureau of Reclamation and a license with the State of California authorizing it to divert water for the Ventura River Project (Project).  The contract with the Bureau of Reclamation states that Casitas ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In a major victory for advocates of regulatory action to address climate change, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected challenges to the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species.  In Re:  Polar Bear Endangered Species Listing and Section 4(d) Rule Litigation (D.C. Cir. No. 11-5219, March 1, 2013).  The court held that the decision to list the polar bear based on predicted reductions in the sea ice habitat of the polar bear as a result of climate change is reasonable and adequately supported by the record.
The polar bear listing is the first and most high ...

In a unanimous panel decision, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held (pdf) that a biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding the effects of three pesticides on certain salmonids was not the product of reasoned decision-making.  The Fourth Circuit refused to silently rubber stamp an agency decision where NMFS failed to provide a satisfactory explanation for key aspects of that decision.  Further, the court refused to allow NMFS to offer post hoc rationalizations for its decision in the form of an expert affidavit and ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In Sierra Club v. Kenna, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4743, *1 (January 11, 2013), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld (pdf) the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) grant of right-of-way over federal land, providing a wind energy project - located entirely on private land - access to a state road and other essential infrastructure. The plaintiffs challenged BLM’s action on the grounds that BLM failed to consider impacts to bird species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) caused by the operation of the wind turbines.

A wind energy ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11955, *1 (Jan. 28, 2013), the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington held (pdf) that claims arising under the citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) are not subject to the strictures of the record review doctrine. The court held that, since the ESA citizen suit provision creates an express, adequate remedy at law, and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) only applies when there is no other adequate remedy in court ...

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On January 10, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Alaska issued an order (pdf) vacating the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's critical habitat designation for the polar bear after concluding that the Service failed to comply with substantive and procedural requirements in the Endangered Species Act.  Specifically, the district court found that the administrative record produced by the Service failed to contain evidence of the essential "physical or biological features" necessary to justify the designation of two large areas as critical ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In Jayne v. Sherman, --- F.3d ---, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 417, *1 (9th Cir. Jan. 7, 2013), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld (pdf) a biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the Idaho Roadless Rule. Plaintiffs argued that FWS violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by improperly relying on commitments from the U.S. Forest Service regarding the impact of the rule on listed grizzly bear and caribou. In rejecting plaintiffs’ arguments, the court found that FWS reasonably relied on the Forest Service’s commitments to ...

On January 4, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held (pdf) that Safari Club International (Safari Club) lacked standing to intervene as a matter of right in the litigation that resulted in two stipulated judgments establishing procedures and deadlines for reviewing listing and critical habitat determinations for 251 candidate species, thereby affirming the decision of the district court.  (A short discussion of the history leading up to these settlements can be found here and here.) 

The Safari Club asserted that it had a procedural ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On December 26, 2012, in Strahan v. Roughead (pdf), the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied a motion brought by federal defendants to dismiss as moot plaintiffs’ claims that the Navy is operating vessels in a manner that takes listed whales in violation of section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and failing to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding the impacts of such operations in violation of section 7 of the ESA. The pro se plaintiff is alleging that the Navy, through the operation of its vessels and its military ...

On December 4, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho denied a request to amend its previous order reversing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) 2009 Final Rule listing the slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Plaintiffs sought to reverse the court's August 2012 decision (pdf) to vacate the Service's determination in order to allow the listing to remain in place pending additional review.

The ESA defines "threatened" as "likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In an order issued on December 6, 2012, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed a lawsuit brought by Wild Equity and other plaintiffs alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act’s take prohibition by the City and County of San Francisco.  The decision, in Wild Equity Institute v. City and County of San Francisco, N.D. Cal. Case No. C 11-958, closes a chapter in the longstanding effort of local environmental groups to shut down the historic Sharp Park golf course, which is located along the Pacific Ocean in the City of Pacifica and owned ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On November 30, 2012, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California held (pdf) that because the National Marine Fisheries Service had considered the economic impacts of designating certain areas as critical habitat for the threatened green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), the Service complied with its obligations under section 4(b) of the Endangered Species Act. 

Section 4(b) of the Endangered Species Act states:

The Secretary shall designate critical habitat, and make revisions thereto, . . . on the basis of the best ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States District Court for the District of Oregon dismissed claims brought by environmental organizations under section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to prevent unlawful take of marbled murrelets (brachyramphus marmoratus). Cascadia Wildlands v. Kitzhaber, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 166966, at *2 (D. Or. Nov. 27, 2012) (pdf). Plaintiffs alleged that defendants, including individual members of the Oregon Board of Forestry and the State Land Board, violated the ESA by (1) authorizing timber sales on specific tracts of forestland, (2) approving forest ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In a decision with important implications for the intersection of water rights and the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the federal district court in Santa Ana, California upheld the designation of critical habitat for the Santa Ana Sucker (catostomus santaanae) in Southern California. (A .pdf copy of the court's decision is available here.) The ruling is the latest in a decade-long fight over critical habitat for the fish that some have dubbed Southern California’s delta smelt. Louis Sahagun, Court Upholds Habitat Protection for Santa Ana Sucker, Los Angeles Times (Oct. 24 ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Last week, environmental advocacy groups celebrated a victory in a decade-long fight over the proper balance between agricultural and environmental interests in the Pacific Northwest. On October 1, in Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides v. EPA, the federal district court for the Western District of Washington denied the defendant’s effort to dismiss the lawsuit thereby permitting plaintiffs' citizen suit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to move forward. (A .pdf copy of the court's decision is ...

Posted in Court Decisions

 In a 2-1 decision (pdf), the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently upheld the decision of the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the West Virginia northern flying squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus fuscus). The lower court held that the Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by removing the species from the list of endangered and threatened species despite the fact that several Recovery Plan Criteria had not been satisfied. In its decision, the D.C. Circuit held that [a] plan is a statement of intention, not a contract, and that [i]f the plan ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has granted (pdf) a motion by appellees to dismiss an appeal pursued by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other organizations from an interim order enjoining one component of a reasonable and prudent alternative imposed by the Fish and Wildlife Service on operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.  The order, which we reported on here, enjoined implementation of a water management action, referred to as the Fall X2 Action, which requires a combination of reservoir releases upstream from the ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On August 13, 2012, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit laid to rest litigation that threatened to profoundly affect water and power supplies for 25 million people throughout the arid Southwest.

In Grand Canyon Trust v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (pdf), the Ninth Circuit held that the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) is not required to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) every year when it prepares an annual operating plan for the Glen Canyon Dam.

The court held ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In a recent decision (pdf), the United States District Court for the District of Idaho remanded a determination (pdf) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list slickspot peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum), a small, flowering plant in the mustard family, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.  The controversy  over the listing of the species has spanned more than a decade, resulting in numerous Service determinations and court orders.

Slickspot peppergrass is only found in portions of Idaho.  Idaho's Governor, Butch Otter, and others brought the case challenging the ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a 2-1 decision (pdf) affirming a lower court holding that plaintiff environmental groups lacked standing to challenge the renewal of certain water contracts by the Bureau of Reclamation and that other contract renewals by the Bureau were not subject to consultation under section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act because the renewals constituted non-discretionary actions outside the scope of the consultation requirement.

At issue in the case was the renewal of water contracts between the Bureau and two sets of ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On June 12, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia issued a decision (pdf) upholding the listing of the shovelnose sturgeon (Scaphyrhynchus platorynchus) as a threatened species, although it is by all accounts thriving, and upheld a partial ban on commercial fishing of the shovelnose sturgeon, despite the lack of a similar ban on recreational fishing.  The Court upheld the foregoing actions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) because the shovelnose sturgeon is almost identical in appearance to the pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Oregon issued a decision (pdf) denying the motion of plaintiff environmental groups for a preliminary injunction to halt lethal removal of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) from the Columbia River to reduce predation pressure on salmonids as they migrate past the Bonneville Dam.  The decision is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute over efforts to protect salmon runs in the Columbia River system.

The States of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho applied for and obtained authorization from the National ...

On June 1, 2012, a sharply divided Ninth Circuit sitting en banc filed an opinion in Karuk Tribe of California v. U.S. Forest Service, No. 05-16801 (June 1, 2012) (pdf) holding that U.S. Forest Service "approvals" of notices of intent (NOIs) to undertake suction dredge mining are discretionary agency actions that may affect listed coho salmon designated critical habitat in the Klamath National Forest, thus triggering a duty to consult under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). 

The en banc opinion reverses both the district court and a prior panel opinion in which a divided three-judge panel held that the Forest Service was not required to consult because the "approvals" at issue are tantamount to decisions not to require "plans of operations" for proposed dredging, and are therefore agency inaction, not agency action.  Judge William A. Fletcher wrote the dissenting opinion in last year's decision, but he wrote for the 7-4 majority of the en banc court.

Posted in Court Decisions

In Conservation Congress v. Finley, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 61634 (May 2, 2012), plaintiffs challenge agency decisions that authorize the Beaverslide Timber Sale and Fuel Treatment Project located in the Six Rivers National Forest in northern California on the grounds the project violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA), National Environmental Policy Act, and National Forest Management Act.  Among other things, plaintiffs allege that the Forest Service unlawfully failed to reinitiate consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In a recent decision out of Oregon, a United States District Court found that plaintiffs do not need to prove a likelihood of future take to prevail on a Section 9 claim.  Stout v. U.S. Forest Service, ECF No. 112 (D. Or. April 24, 2012).  Plaintiffs, ranchers who had been partially enjoined from grazing on certain banks because of potential impacts to threatened Middle Columbia River steelhead (MCR steelhead), filed an action against the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service alleging, among other claims, that the Forest Service had taken steelhead ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order (pdf) denying cross motions for summary judgment in a case brought by plaintiffs suing the City and County of San Francisco over the management of Sharp Park Golf Course, which San Francisco owns but which is located in the City of Pacifica in San Mateo County, California.  At issue in the case is whether San Francisco’s management of the golf course violates the take prohibition of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Previously, we posted a blog describing plaintiffs' unsuccessful attempt to ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States District Court for the Western District of Washington issued a decision (pdf) denying a request by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to enjoin the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from providing flood insurance, either directly or through third-party entities, for any new development in certain jurisdictions in the Puget Sound area until the case is resolved on the merits.  We blogged about the case previously, here.  NWF filed the case against FEMA for failure to fully implement the reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) that ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld a law that orders the Secretary of the Interior to reissue a rule that delists a distinct population of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains without regard to the Endangered Species Act ("ESA") and without judicial review.  Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Salazar, No. 11-36552 (9th Cir. March 14, 2012).  As previously reported, in 2009 the Fish and Wildlife Service ("Service") issued what is known as the "2009 Rule," which designated a distinct population of gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and removed ESA ...

Posted in Court Decisions

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia invalidated regulations designed to streamline the consultation process required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in preparing fire management plans. The judge found (pdf) that there was no evidence in the record that the ESA consultation process actually resulted in any delay to any National Fire Plan project.

The regulations were originally issued in 2003 (pdf) by six federal agencies, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the National Park Service, the Bureau of ...

The United States District Court for the District of North Dakota issued a decision (pdf) granting the dismissal of criminal charges under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) based upon a finding that the MBTA was not intended to criminalize incidental "take" of migratory birds by lawful commercial activities.  The United States had charged seven oil and gas companies operating in North Dakota's Williston Basin (Defendants) with violating the MBTA by "taking" migratory birds after they were found dead in or near the companies' oil reserve pits.

The Government's case against each defendant was similar.  Defendants operated oil reserve pits on their respective sites.  Under North Dakota law, a "reserve pit" is "an excavated area used to contain drill cuttings accumulated during oil and gas drilling operations and mud-laden oil and gas drilling fluids used to confine oil, gas, or water to its native strata during the drilling of an oil and gas well."  North Dakota state sets forth requirements for operation and remediation of reserve pits.  Notably, state law did not require the fencing, screening, or netting of a reserve pit unless the pit was not reclaimed in excess of 90 days after the company's completion of operations.  On separate occasions, agents for the Government observed and collected dead birds at or near Defendants' reserve pits.

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order (pdf) denying a motion for preliminary relief filed by plaintiffs suing the City and County of San Francisco over the management of Sharp Park Golf Course, which San Francisco owns but which is located in the City of Pacifica in San Mateo County, California. At issue in the case is whether San Francisco’s management of the golf course violates the take prohibition of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Plaintiffs sought an injunction that would substantially restrict activities necessary to ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In a decision (pdf) issued on November 22, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court decision striking the decision of the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to delist a distinct population segment of grizzly bears (ursus arctos horribilis) near Yellowstone National Park and retaining protected status for the species.  The court held that the Service failed to articulate a rational connection between data in the record and the Service's determination that whitebark pine declines were not a threat to the Yellowstone grizzly.  However, the Ninth ...

On November 16, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued a ruling (PDF) affirming a lower court’s decision (PDF) that two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) biological opinions (BiOp) for a proposed 1500-acre mining project in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness on the Kootenai National Forest met the legal standards set forth in the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act. The Court upheld the BiOp’s conclusions that construction and operation of the mine would not adversely modify bull trout critical habitat or ...

Posted in Court Decisions

As we previously reported, on October 17, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that the Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by issuing a rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regarding take of the threatened Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) (Special Rule) without conducting an environmental assessment.  As we discussed here, the Special Rule sets forth those measures and prohibitions the Secretary of Interior deems necessary and advisable for the conservation the polar bear, but it has ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States District Court for the District of Maryland recently decided (pdf) cross motions for summary judgment in a challenge to a biological opinion (BiOp) and reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) in favor of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  In the BiOp and RPA, which NMFS developed at the request of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and after consultation with that agency, NMFS evaluated the effects of chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion on 27 species of Pacific salmonids.  Plaintiffs argued that the BiOp and RPA were unlawful – in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and Endangered Species Act (ESA) – in a number of respects.  But the court rejected each claim and consistently deferred to NMFS as the expert agency charged with implementation of the ESA.

Plaintiffs claimed that NMFS improperly employed and relied on two models.  NMFS utilized results from application of the models to predict pesticide levels in streams that support the listed salmonids.  With respect to the use of one of the models by NMFS, the court opined that there seems to be a reasonable difference of opinion regarding whether the model accurately predicts pesticide concentrations.  But the court stated that it is not within the purview of this Court to weigh the evidence supporting [ ] extremely divergent scientific opinions and decide which of them is correct.  It appears though that, when the court held for NMFS on this issue, it may have been influenced by its view that the ultimate outcome would not differ across a range of predicted pesticide levels.

Posted in Court Decisions

Today, on October 31, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States denied (pdf) review of a constitutional challenge to water delivery regulations regarding the Central Valley Project and California State Water Project intended to protect the threatened delta smelt. The petition for writ of certiorari was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of Stewart & Jasper Orchards, and asserted that application of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the delta smelt, a noncommercial fish that is only found in California, is an unconstitutional exercise of congressional power under ...

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied (PDF) an emergency motion (PDF) for an injunction pending appeal to the extent the moving parties sought an injunction prior to the court hearing oral arguments, currently scheduled for November 8, 2011.  At issue in the underlying appeal is the constitutionality of a law (Public Law 112-10 section 1713 (Section 1713)) passed by Congress that directs the Secretary of the Interior to reissue a 2009 final rule which removed Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for all wolves living in the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wold ...

On October 17, 2011, U.S. District Judge Sullivan issued two opinions in the Polar Bear litigation previously blogged about here.  In the first opinion (pdf), Judge Sullivan held that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by issuing a rule under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regarding take of the threatened Polar bear (Ursus maritimus) without conducting an environmental assessment. 

As previously reported here, the 4(d) rule for the polar bear sets forth those measures and prohibitions the Secretary of Interior deems necessary and advisable for the conservation the polar bear, but it has the effect of specifically prohibiting the federal government from using the polar bear's threatened status to regulate GHG emissions of activities that occur outside the polar bear’s range.  Earlier this year, Judge Sullivan upheld the Service's definition of "endangered" and its decision to list the polar bear as threatened.

Until the Service completes its analysis of the 4(d) rule under NEPA, an interim 4(d) rule issued in May 2008 remains in place.  Because the interim rule has the same effect as the final rule, the polar bear will continue to receive the same protections.

In the second opinion (pdf), Judge Sullivan held that the Service did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the polar bear is a "depleted" species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and therefore sport-hunted polar bear trophies are not eligible for importation.

The Court also held that the Service did not abuse its discretion when it refused to process applications to import sport-hunted trophy polar bears that were pending at the time the Service determined that the species is depleted.   The Service stopped processing the applications because it determined that the applicants had not established that importing sport-hunted trophies would "enhance" the status of the polar bear by increasing the population or otherwise contributing to the recovery of the species.  Thus, the applications do not qualify for an exception to the MMPA's general ban on importing sport-hunted trophies of depleted marine mammals.

Posted in Court Decisions

On September 30, 2011, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California upheld (pdf) a decision of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to approve management measures developed by the Pacific Fisheries Management Council in conjunction with the Council's decision to open the commercial and recreational fishery for Fall-run Chinook salmon in the Central Valley for the 2011 season.  The NMFS decision had been challenged by the San Joaquin River Group Authority, a California joint powers authority made up of member agencies that own or operate ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a 279-page memorandum decision (pdf) on cross-motions for summary judgment in consolidated cases involving challenges to the June 4, 2009 biological opinion issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regarding the effects of continued operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California on five listed fish species. The court considered dozens of claims advanced by plaintiffs and held for plaintiffs in whole or in part with respect to about half of the claims while ...

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The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has approved (pdf) two settlement agreements among environmental groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service to address a backlog of species that are candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  One (pdf) of the agreements was entered into with Wildearth Guardians, and the second (pdf) was entered into with the Center for Biological Diversity.  On the same day that the Court entered the settlements, it issued a decision (pdf) and order denying a motion by a hunting group to intervene in the matter.  We previously ...

The United States District Court for the District of Oregon issued a decision (pdf) invalidating the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) 2008 and 2010 biological opinions for operation of the Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) by the Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation after the parties to the litigation challenging those decisions filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court held that NMFS improperly made a no jeopardy determination with respect to certain listed salmonids on the basis of unidentified habitat mitigation measures.

The ...

On July 22, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit held that the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) erred when it designated 143 acres of private property as critical habitat for the endangered San Diego fairy shrimp (Branchinecta sandiegonensis) based on a single observation of the shrimp on the property in 2001.

The question presented in Otay Mesa Property L.P. v. U.S. Dept. of the Interior, No. 10-5204, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 14998 (D.C. Cir. July 22, 2011) was quite narrow: whether a single confirmed sighting of the endangered fairy shrimp in a ...

In a closely watched and hotly contested challenge to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to list the Polar Bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the final listing rule at 73 Fed. Reg. 28,212 (May 15, 2008) (pdf), the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a 116-page opinion (pdf) in which it upheld both the decision to list the bear as threatened, not endangered, and the Service's interpretation of "endangered species" as a species that is "on the brink of extinction."

As previously reported here, the Center for ...

The United States District Court for the District of Arizona entered summary judgment (pdf) for the United States Forest Service in a case filed by Defenders of Wildlife and other plaintiffs alleging the Forest Service failed to fulfill its duty to conserve under section 7(a)(1) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The case focused on efforts to conserve the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) by reintroducing an experimental population of the species into the Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area, which includes portions of east-central Arizona and west-central New Mexico ...

In a decision that addresses a number of the more difficult issues the federal wildlife agencies grapple with during the section 7 consultation process, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona recently struck down (pdf) a biological opinion (pdf) issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service for ongoing operations at Fort Huachuca that affect species in the upper San Pedro River area of southeastern Arizona. The court also held that the Department of the Army violated its section 7 obligation by relying on the legally flawed biological opinion.

Fort Huachuca is a major military base in southeastern Arizona. Base operations affect two listed species, the endangered Huachuca water umbel (Lilaeopsis schaffneriana ssp. recurva) and the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus). The court identified two categories of impacts to the species: direct and indirect effects of activities within the Fort’s boundaries and indirect effects on a portion of the San Pedro River including groundwater and surface water consumption.

Posted in Court Decisions

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has authorized (pdf) the states of Washington and Oregon to lethally remove California sea lions that eat thousands of endangered salmon and steelhead just below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. According to NMFS, the small number of sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have a significant effect on the ability of the fish stocks to recover. While the population of California sea lions is considered healthy and stable, the population of salmon and steelhead ...

Posted in Court Decisions

On April 20, 2011, the San Francisco Superior Court issued a peremptory writ of mandate (PDF) enjoining the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) from implementing a pilot program to facilitate recovery of the Klamath Basin coho salmon (Coho) and compliance by farmers with the DFG's Lake and Streambed Alteration Program (referred to as the Shasta Valley and Scott River Watershed-Wide Permitting Programs).

In March 2005, the California Fish and Game Commission listed the Coho as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  Therefore, the taking of Coho is illegal without authorization from DFG.

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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