On October 20, 2010, at a hearing on a motion for summary judgment filed by Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Biological Diversity, a federal judge indicated that he intends to remand to the Fish & Wildlife Service its controversial decision to list the Polar bear as a threatened species rather than an endangered species. See Polar Bear Endangered Species Act Listing and 4(d) Rule Litigation, No. 1:08-mc-00764-EGS (D.D.C. filed Dec. 4, 2008).
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service made history two years ago when it listed the Polar bear as a threatened species because it identified the devastating impacts of climate change on the bear's habitat as a major factor in the species' alarming decline. In addition, the Polar Bear is the first, and so far, only mammal to be listed specifically due to climate change impacts.
Environmentalists had hoped that the listing would force the federal government to use its considerable regulatory authority under the Endangered Species Act to impose strict limits on emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). But a controversial rule issued by the Department of the Interior under Section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act placed strict geographic limits on the authority of federal agencies to require projects in Alaska to curb or mitigate their GHG emissions. As previously reported here, much to the dismay of environmentalists, the Department of the Interior under the Obama Administration chose not to overturn the polar bear rule. Instead, the Obama Administration has called for new legislation to address GHG emissions, and the EPA may use its authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate GHGs.
Environmentalists immediately challenged the Polar Bear Listing Rule, arguing that the species should be listed as endangered, not threatened. If they prevail on that issue, and the bear attains endangered status, then the Department of the Interior will no longer have the power to issue a 4(d) rule for the Polar bear. Without the limits in the existing 4(d) rule, the wildlife agencies could, in theory, impose limits on GHG emissions from facilities and projects that receive discretionary federal funding or approvals anywhere in the country based on their impacts on climate change, which impacts the Polar bear.
The environmental plaintiffs have also challenged the validity of the 4(d) rule itself. Thus, if the Polar Bear Listing Rule is ultimately upheld, their challenge to 4(d) rule will remain to be decided in subsequent proceedings.
On October 19, 2010 the San Francisco Superior Court issued an order requiring the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to reconsider its determination that the American pika is not threatened with extinction. Center for Biological Diversity v. California Fish & Game Comm'n, No. CPF-090509927 (San Francisco Superior Court).
In 2008, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) filed a petition to list the pika as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). CBD argues that the pika is threatened with extinction because climate change in ...
In an article published in Yale Environment 360 on July 22, 2010, Todd Woody chronicles the ongoing campaign by various environmental organizations to use the Endangered Species Act to compel the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
The article, Enlisting Endangered Species As a Tool to Combat Warming, recounts the perils facing the American Pika, previously blogged about here, to illustrate the broader strategy aimed at forcing the Services to regulate GHG emissions.
As noted in our blog post ...
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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