Posts tagged Litigation.
Posted in Litigation

On November 21, 2019, the California Secretary for Natural Resources announced California’s decision to sue the federal government over its biological opinions for continuing operations of the California State Water Project (SWP) and federal Central Valley Project (CVP)....

On April 23, 2019, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that environmental groups have standing to challenge the federal government’s killing of gray wolves in Idaho without conducting additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Western Watersheds Project et al. v. Grimm, No. 18-35075 (9th Cir. 2019).

Environmental groups brought an action against the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services (Wildlife Services), alleging that NEPA requires Wildlife Services to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement and ...

On December, 10, 2018, the United States Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari in Kisor  v. Wilkie (No. 18-15), which raises the issue of whether Auer deference should be overruled.  Auer deference (also known as Seminole Rock deference) requires courts to defer to an agency's reasonable interpretation of its own ambiguous regulations.  Auer deference is similar to Chevron deference, which requires courts to defer to an agency's reasonable interpretation of ambiguous statutes.  As this blog has noted, agency deference has been in the spotlight recently ...

On May 17, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana and upheld the U.S. Forest Service’s (Forest Service) decision to construct 4.7 miles of new roads in the Kootenai National Forest. The Kootenai National Forest is managed pursuant to the Forest Service’s Kootenai National Forest Plan (Forest Plan) that includes access-related amendments prohibiting any net permanent increase[] in linear miles of total roads.  These Forest Plan access amendments incorporate a 2011 Biological Opinion and ...

On December 28, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to reclassify the Tobusch fishhook cactus (Sclerocactus brevihamatus ssp. tobuschii), downlisting the species from endangered to threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The Service concluded that, while the Cactus is not in danger of extinction, it is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future.  This proposed rule and the accompanying 12-month finding were precipitated by the same ESA petition, citizen suit, and settlement agreement that compelled the ...

On December 15, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) published a proposed rule to remove the black-capped vireo (Vireo atricapilla) from the list of Endangered and Threatened Species. The Service has concluded that listing is no longer warranted due to the species’ recovery.

The vireo is a small migratory songbird that breeds and nests in south-central Oklahoma, Texas, and the northern states of Mexico, and winters in Mexico’s western coastal states. The species was initially listed as endangered in October 1987 due to various threats, including nest parasitism ...

On June 7, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected plaintiffs’ claim, among others, that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) by granting a right-of-way to a private company to develop and operate a wind energy facility.  Protect Our Communities Foundation v. Jewell, No. 14-55842, 14-55666 (9th Cir. June 7, 2016).

Plaintiffs argued that BLM—by granting a right-of-way to Tule Wind LLC (Tule)—was "complicit" in future conduct by Tule that might result in violations of the MBTA.  Beyond this assertion of ...

After filing an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit less than two weeks prior, on May 10, 2016, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) filed an unopposed motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal of the district court decision that vacated the listing of the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Midland Division, identified a number of errors in the Service’s evaluation of the species under the criteria laid out in the ...

On December 3, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon’s denial of a preliminary injunction sought by environmental plaintiffs to enjoin the Douglas Fire Complex Recovery Project in Oregon’s Klamath Mountains.  Cascadia Wildlands v. Thrailkill, No. 14-35819 (9th Cir. Dec. 3, 2015).  The environmental groups asserted that the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) combined recovery project and logging plan to salvage acreage burned by the Douglas Complex Fire would irreparably harm the threatened ...

On September 14, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California granted the state and federal defendants’ motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.  Center for Environmental Science, Accuracy & Reliability (CESAR) v. Cowin, No. 1:15-cv-00884 (pdf). Plaintiff CESAR claimed that the construction and operation of an emergency drought salinity barrier (Project) in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta—which is designated as critical habitat for the threatened delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus)—violates the section 9 ...

On June 17, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that the U.S. Forest Service (Service) violated section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by failing to reinitiate consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the impacts of a revised critical habitat designation on the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis).  Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service, No. 13-35624 (9th Cir. Jun. 17, 2015) (pdf).  The Canada lynx was listed as threatened in 2000, and a limited amount of critical habitat was designated for the species in 2006 ...

Posted in Litigation

Recently, two separate petitions were filed with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review of the Ninth Circuit’s decision in San Luis and Delta Mendota Water Authority v. Jewell, a case involving a challenge to the biological opinion and reasonable and prudent alternative issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding continuing operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California. The two projects provide water to over 20 million Californians.

One petition (pdf) was filed on behalf of Stewart & Jasper Orchards, Arroyo Farms, and King Pistachio ...

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The United States District Court for the Eastern District of California recently signed an order on a stipulation (pdf) in Murphy v. United States Forest Service that bars the Forest Service from proceeding with implementation of the Upper Echo Lake Hazardous Fuels Reduction Project in 2014 (Project), and requires the Forest Service to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the effects of the Project on the endangered Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae) before proceeding further with the Project.

The Forest Service approved the Upper Echo ...

Posted in Litigation

Despite landmark settlements requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to review the status of hundreds of species currently listed as candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), conservation groups continue to file lawsuits to force listing decisions.


For example, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) recently filed suit in an effort to force the Service to make final listing decisions for four freshwater aquatic species—the Barrens darter (Etheostoma forbesi), holiday darter (Etheostoma brevirostrum), Atlantic pigtoe mussel (Fusconaia ...

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Posted in Litigation

On May 12, 2014, Appellees Kern County Water Agency, Coalition for a Sustainable Delta, State Water Contractors, and Metropolitan Water District of Southern California filed a petition for rehearing en banc, seeking further review of the recent Ninth Circuit decision relating to the 2008 biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the effects of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on the delta smelt. San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority v. Jewell, No 11-1587 (9th Cir. March 13, 2014). Two other petitions for rehearing en banc ...

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Recently, the United States District Court for the District of Montana ordered (pdf) the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to develop a timeline for completion of recovery planning for the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). The court determined that the Service’s purported justifications for not developing and implementing a recovery plan for the species were insufficient in light of its statutory duty and its own internal guidelines setting forth a timetable for recovery planning.

In Friends of the Wild Swan v. Ashe, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65378 (D. Mont. 2014), plaintiffs ...

Posted in Litigation

On May 7, 2014, a U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina enjoined (pdf) coyote hunting in five North Carolina counties that provide a recovery area for the red wolf (Canis rufus), a species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In Red Wolf Coalition v. North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, No. 2:13-CV-60-BO (N.D.N.C. May 7, 2014), plaintiffs sought to enjoin the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (Commission) from issuing permits for coyote hunting in an area spanning 1.7 million acres. The land serves as a recovery ...

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Posted in Litigation

In Native Fish Society v. National Marine Fisheries Service, No. 3:12-cv-00431, environmental groups challenged the operation of the Sandy Hatchery along the Columbia River in Portland, Oregon. Among other things, plaintiffs argued that operation of the hatchery violates the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by causing take of listed fish species, including the Lower Columbia River Chinook, Lower Columbia River coho, Columbia River chum, and Lower Columbia River steelhead. Plaintiffs alleged the hatchery causes take due to competition from hatchery fish, introduction of ...

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On August 20, 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia held (pdf) that appellants’ claims against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) for an alleged failure to take certain actions under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with respect to the straight-horned markhor (Capra falconeri jerdoni) were moot. 

In 1976, the Service classified the markhor as endangered under the ESA. The species’ primary habitat is the Torghar Hills along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. In response to the reduction of the markhor population, local tribal leaders formed ...

Posted in Litigation

In a recently issued press release, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) announced that it and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had entered into two settlement agreements that would increase protection for the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) in Arizona and New Mexico.  The press release states that under the two agreements the Fish and Wildlife Service will increase the wolf's recovery territory, stop capturing wolves entering the two states from Mexico, and finalize a rule to allow direct release of Mexican gray wolves into New Mexico.  Under one of the ...

On July 22, 2013, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington held (pdf) that plaintiffs’ claims regarding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (Service) alleged violation of section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) were not subject to the 60 day notice of intent to sue (NOI) requirement.

In 1997, the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) adopted a habitat conservation plan to govern logging in the forests of southwest Washington.  The marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus) is one of a number of endangered and threatened species covered ...

Posted in Litigation

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed (pdf) an injunction issued by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas requiring the State to prepare a habitat conservation plan for the purpose of obtaining an incidental take permit under section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  We reported on the lower court decision that State officials in Texas violated the ESA's prohibition on take of the federally listed whooping crane (Grus americana), here.  At the same time that the court stayed the injunction pending the outcome ...

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Posted in Litigation

On December 17, 2012, the National Association of Home Builders, the Olympia Master Builders, the Home Builder Association of Greater Austin, and the Texas Salamander Coalition, Inc., filed a lawsuit (pdf) against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ken Salazar, in his official capacity, alleging that when the Service entered into stipulated settlements with WildEarth Guardians (pdf) and the Center for Biological Diversity (pdf) establishing procedures and deadlines for reviewing the listing and critical habitat determinations for 251 candidate species ...

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 ...

On Tuesday October 24, 2012, several conservation groups wrote a letter to President Obama expressing concerns about an agreement that the Obama Administration entered into with the American Forest Resource Council, Carpenter Industrial Council, and Douglas County, Oregon (Plaintiffs), to remove critical habitat for the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus), a seabird listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The agreement still needs approval by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

Plaintiffs sued the U.S. Fish and ...

Posted in Litigation

On October 22, 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) abused its discretion when it issued a biological opinion (BiOp) and incidental take statement for the Ruby Pipeline Project, and ordered the Service to prepare a revised BiOp.  Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Bureau of Land Management, No. 10-72356 (9th Cir. Oct. 22, 2012) (pdf). 

Specifically, the court held that the Service's "no jeopardy" and "no adverse modification" to critical habitat determinations relied on protective measures that are not ...

Posted in Litigation

Previously, we reported on the latest chapter in the decade-long dispute between environmental groups, federal agencies, and pesticide manufacturers over the impact of pesticides on the Pacific Northwest’s listed salmon populations.  The next chapter is scheduled for October 24, 2012, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit will hear oral argument in DowAgrosciences LLC v. National Marine Fisheries Service. In that case, a consortium of pesticide manufacturers are arguing that a Biological Opinion (BiOp) issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service ...

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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 Litigation

In a case with a complicated procedural history, the United States District Court for the District of Oregon recently held (pdf) that a claim for failure to consult under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) arises under the citizen suit provision of that Act rather than under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).  In doing so, the Court followed the Ninth Circuit's reasoning in Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink, 632 F.3d 472 (9th Cir. 2011) (pdf) and rejected a contrary interpretation included in proposed findings and recommendations (pdf) of the magistrate.  ...

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Posted in Litigation

On Tuesday, March 27, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington will hear argument in a suit filed by National Wildlife Federation against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for failure to fully implement the reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) that accompanied the National Marine Fisheries Service's (NMFS) biological opinion regarding the impacts of the FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on listed species in the Puget Sound.

In 2004, the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled

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A  judge in the District of Washington D.C. recently denied a request by the Humane Society of the United States to halt the killing of sea lions that prey on endangered spring run salmon and steelhead on the Columbia River.  On March 15, 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) reauthorized the removal of California sea lions that congregate at the Bonneville dam and feed on the listed species as they pass the dam.  NMFS's authorization would have allowed the removal of up to 92 sea lions annually through 2016.  The Humane Society challenged NMFS's decision, claiming that NMFS ...

On March 8, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California entered judgment in Coalition for a Sustainable Delta and Kern County Water Agency v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, et al., No 1:09-cv-02024 (E.D. Cal.) based on a settlement agreement in which FEMA agreed to request consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act regarding the impacts of its implementation of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on threatened and endangered ...

Posted in Litigation

On February 7, 2012, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) issued a 60-day notice of intent to sue to the United States Army Corps of Engineers over its national levee vegetation removal policy.  This notice follows a United States District Court's recent refusal to allow the Department of Fish and Game to intervene in a similar lawsuit brought by several environmental organizations.  That case is entitled Friends of the River, et al. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Case No. 2:11-cv-01650 (E.D. Cal.).  

The Corps' policy calls for a vegetation ...

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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 Litigation

In September 2011, we reported that a federal district court made a rare finding of agency bad faith in litigation challenging a biological opinion and reasonable and prudent alternative (RPA) issued with respect to the effects of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California on the threatened delta smelt.  The finding came on the heels of a decision by the court granting injunctive relief to the State of California and public water agencies and agricultural interests, enjoining implementation of a component of the RPA previously determined to be arbitrary and capricious, which is referred to as the Fall X2 Action.  Following the bad faith finding, the House of Representatives held an oversight hearing, and a number of Representatives expressed their concern about the conduct of the federal agency personnel.

Rather than launch an Inspector General's investigation, the Service decided to hire an engineering and designing consulting firm, Atkins, to oversee a review of the finding of bad faith.  At the same time, the Service vehemently defended the conduct of its personnel, going so far as to give a merit award to one of the two personnel charged with bad faith less than a month after the court's decision and well before the outside review was completed.  The decision to contract directly with an outside organization to conduct the review allowed the Service to control the scope of the review including the questions posed to the reviewers, determine what materials the reviewers would be provided, and limit the panel to communicating only with the Department of the Interior during the course of the review.

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Posted in Litigation

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued a decision (pdf) denying cross motions for summary judgment in a case brought by a non-profit group against State officials in Texas alleging violation of the Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) prohibition on take of the federally listed whooping crane (Grus americana). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants, who are officials with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the South Texas Watermaster, failed to adequately manage the flow of fresh water into the San Antonio Bay ecosystem during the ...

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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 Litigation

Recently, we reported on an unusual bad faith finding made by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California in litigation challenging the 2008 biological opinion issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) regarding the effects of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project on the delta smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus).  Thus far, the Department of the Interior has reacted to the bad faith finding by expressing its confidence in agency personnel involved in the matter.  Mike Taugher of the Contra Costa Times reported that Department of ...

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Posted in Litigation

On September 16, 2011, in litigation challenging a biological opinion and reasonable and prudent alternative issued with respect to the effects of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California on the threatened delta smelt, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California made a finding of agency bad faith by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The finding was incorporated into the court's ruling from the bench on motions to stay filed by federal defendants and intervenor environmental groups after the court issued a decision on August 31 ...

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Posted in Litigation

On August 25, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied (pdf) an emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal to re-instate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Utah. Environmental groups appealed the case to the Ninth Circuit on August 13, 2011, after a federal district court upheld legislation directing the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Service) to reissue a 2009 rule that removed ESA restrictions on the gray wolf, except in the state of Wyoming. The same rule was determined by a district ...

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Posted in Litigation

On August 19, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California denied in part and granted in part FEMA's motion for partial summary judgment (PDF) in the latest in a series of lawsuits filed against FEMA for failing to consult under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regarding the impacts of its administration of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) on listed species that depend upon floodplains.

In their first claim for relief in Coalition for a Sustainable Delta v. Federal Emergency Management Agency, No. 09-2024 (E.D. Cal.), the plaintiffs ...

Posted in Litigation

In a recently issued decision (pdf), a U.S. District Court overruled a Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decision to delist the West Virginia Northern Flying Squirrel because the delisting rule was not consistent with the species’ recovery plan and the recovery plan can only be modified after notice and comment rulemaking. Friends of Blackwater v. Salazar, 772 F. Supp. 2d 232 (D.D.C. 2010).

The squirrel was first listed (pdf) in 1985. In 1990, FWS issued a recovery plan (pdf) outlining four criteria to be met for delisting. In 2006, FWS conducted a species review (pdf) that recommended ...

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Posted in Litigation

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has suspended its letter of authorization (LOA) under Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) allowing the States of Oregon and Washington to lethally remove California sea lions caught eating endangered salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.  NMFS cited pending litigation in Federal court and limited sea lion activity for its decision, and invited the states to renew their request for an LOA in 2012.  NMFS’ decision comes in the wake of an agreement (see earlier post) between wildlife advocates and the two states to ...

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Posted in Listing, Litigation

On July 12, 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that is strengthening a work plan to address a backlog in making listing determinations regarding numerous candidate species.  The work plan is part of a settlement agreement (Agreement) with WildEarth Guardians (WildEarth) and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), the two plaintiff groups that most frequently file suit on endangered species issues.  The Agreement builds on a multi-year work plan that the Service had previously filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in May.

The Service ...

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 House Committee on Natural Resources is set to hold hearings on a bill that will allow for the lethal removal of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) caught eating endangered salmon and steelhead just below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act (H.R. 946), introduced in March 2011, would allow the states of Washington and Oregon, and four local tribal organizations, to get year-long leases to lethally remove a limited number of sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead listed as endangered under the Endangered ...

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 Litigation

The states of Oregon and Washington have agreed to suspend the lethal removal of California sea lions caught eating endangered salmon and steelhead just below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. The sea lion removal program had been implemented to reduce the number of sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), the sea lions have a significant effect on the ability of the fish stocks to recover. The agreement was reached between wildlife advocates, including the ...

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On May 17, 2011, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia stayed its approval of a proposed settlement agreement (Agreement) aimed at expediting findings related to petitions to list 251 species. The Center for Biological Diversity (Center) opposed approval of the Agreement after being left out of the negotiation process.

As we previously reported, plaintiff WildEarth Guardians (Guardians) entered into the Agreement with the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), under which the Service agreed to a six-year work plan to address ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it has developed a six-year work plan that would allow the Service to systematically review and address the needs of more than 250 species currently listed as candidate species for protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The work plan is part of a settlement agreement (PDF) between the Service and WildEarth Guardians (WildEarth) that will be filed in a consolidated case in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

While the Candidate List was envisioned as an administrative tool that would identify species for which the Service would shortly make listing decisions, the dramatic increase of listing petitions and lawsuits has led to a backlog of species on the list. The Service has received petitions to list more than 1,230 species in the last four years – nearly as many petitions as the amount of species listed under the ESA in the previous 30 years. The work plan provides a schedule for making listing determinations for current candidates species, and it includes some species that have been petitioned for protection under the ESA.

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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