Category Archives: Endangered Species Act

Managing Water Releases From Dams to Protect Fish: A Tale of Good Legislation and Bad Engineering

Earlier this week, the 9th Circuit found that the Bureau of Reclamation had authority under 1955 legislation to order additional releases of water to the Trinity River from the Lewiston Dam beyond the amount designated in an official release schedule, where necessary to protect downstream fish populations.  The Court basically held that general language in the 1955 Act trumped later legislation that seemed to prescribe or at least authorize more limited releases.… More

Six 5th Circuit Judges Oppose USFWS’s Critical Habitat Designation: Sounds Like Certiorari to Me

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals just denied en banc review in a case involving the Fish & Wildlife Service’s designation of critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog.  There are only 100 of these “shy” frogs left, and none of them live in the area in Louisiana designated as critical habitat by the FWS.

The focus of the panel decision – and both the panel dissent and the dissent from the denial of en banc review – was whether private land could be considered critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog if no frogs live in the area and the area could not currently support the frog.… More

Trump’s Impact on Environmental Law? Let the Speculation Begin!

What will a Trump Presidency mean for environmental law?  trump-climateI’m not sure my crystal ball is better than anyone else’s, but here are a few quick thoughts:

  • It’s still going to be difficult to amend the key statutes, unless the GOP goes nuclear with the filibuster rules.  I don’t see Clean Air Act amendments happening.  Significant amendments might be possible to the Endangered Species Act and Superfund.…
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It’s Foreseeable That More Species Will Be Listed Under the ESA Due to Climate Change

The drumbeat of cases, either approving agency action under the ESA – or reversing agency refusal to act – due to habitat alteration resulting from climate change continues to grow.  In February, the 9th Circuit reversed a district court decision and approved the Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of critical polar bear habitat.  In April, Judge Christensen of the District of Montana vacated FWS’s decision to withdraw a proposed listing of the wolverine. … More

FWS Goes Back to Square One On Listing the Wolverine. It’s Not Going to Be Any Easier This Time Around.

As we noted in this space in April, Judge Dana Christensen vacated the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to withdraw its proposed listing of a distinct population segment of the North American wolverine WolverineSnowas threatened under the ESA.  Bowing to the inevitable, the FWS has now published in the Federal Register a formal acknowledgement that the Court’s vacatur of the withdrawal of the proposed listing returns the situation to the status quo.… More

NEPA Does Not Require An Agency To Guarantee Project Compliance with Environmental Laws

In an interesting decision last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected challenges to BLM’s decision to issue a right-of-way permit for Tule Wind’s plan for a wind farm southeast of San Diego.  tule-support-buttonIt’s not exactly earthshattering, but it is a helpful decision both for decisionmakers reviewing wind farm applications and for wind farm developers.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • BLM’s inclusion of DOI’s goal under the 2005 Energy Policy Act to increase nonhydropower renewable energy on federal lands as part of the “purpose and need”…
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Climate Change and the ESA: Protecting the Wolverine in the Face of Uncertainty

Under the Endangered Species Act, a species is “threatened” when it is “likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future.”  As scientists continue to predict that climate change will alter habitat over the coming century, it certainly seems “foreseeable” that more species will become endangered.  That’s what the Fish & Wildlife Service concluded about the wolverine WolverineSnowin early 2013.  When FWS backtracked in 2014, Defenders of Wildlife sued. … More

The Ninth Circuit Approves the FWS Polar Bear Critical Habitat Designation

On Monday, the 9th Circuit reversed a district court decision that rejected the critical habitat designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service for protection of the polar bear, polar-bear-cub-on-momwhich was listed as threatened in 2008.  The case is largely a straightforward application of accepted Endangered Species Act principles, but does make a few important points.

As the 9th Circuit pointed out, the district court’s logic was flawed. … More

The Writing on the Wall Moves to the Federal Register: No 30-Year Take Permits

As we discussed last summer, the Judge Lucy Koh of the Northern District of California ruled that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s 30-year programmatic permit for incidental takes of bald and golden eagles SOARING EAGLE-1000 pixels widefrom wind farms violates NEPA.  This week, FWS bowed to reality and revised the permit to change the term to five years.

No word on any efforts by FWS to provide the necessary analysis under NEPA that might justify a 30-year term. … More

No Short Cuts Allowed: The FWS Must Comply with NEPA Before Extending Programmatic Take Permits to 30 Years

Earlier this month, the Judge Lucy Koh set aside the Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to extend its programmatic permit for bald and golden eagle SOARING EAGLE-1000 pixels widetakes from five to 30 years.  The extension was sought by the wind industry for the obvious reason that the uncertainty attached to a five-year permit makes financing a 20- or 30-year project very difficult.  I agree with the concern and support the extension,… More

Easy Cases Make Better Law — Standing Edition

In an interesting, but not really difficult, decision on Tuesday, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the National Association of Home Builders did not have standing to challenge a consent decree pursuant to which the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to a schedule for moving 251 species from “warranted-but-precluded” status under the ESA to either warranted or unwarranted.  ontheesawaitinglistbannergunnison_sagegrouse_noppadolpao13225The FWS, short of resources to make final listing decisions under the ESA,… More