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Sierra Club v. Clark

Citation: 14 ELR 20269
No. Nos. 5-78-66, -83-254, 577 F. Supp. 783/20 ERC 1884/(D. Minn., 01/10/1984)

The court rules that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) does not allow regulated takings of eastern timber wolves, a threatened species, unless the Department of the Interior determines that the takings are necessary to relieve population pressures in an ecosystem. Ruling on a challenge to Interior's new predation control and sport hunting regulations for eastern timber wolves and on Interior's request to reopen a 1978 decision of the court specifying elements of a predation control program, the court holds that the new regulations exceed defendants' limited discretion to allow takings of the threatened species. The ESA's directive that federal agencies conserve endangered and threatened species creates a duty to take steps to ensure the increase of their populations. The statute defines conservation in terms of measures to bring species up to self-sustaining levels, including taking only in the extraordinary case where it is necessary to alleviate harmful overpopulation. The court rejects defendants' argument that § 4(d) of the ESA, by stating that the Secretary of the Interior "may" prohibit the taking of threatened species, gives the Secretary broad discretion to allow takings. It holds that the statutory language and legislative history of the ESA limit agency discretion to allow takings only where necessary to alleviate overpopulation. Since defendants failed to support their new sport hunting regulations with any evidence of overpopulation, they violate the statute. The court also rules that defendants' unexplained expansion of the predation control program set out in its earlier decision violates the ESA.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Susan B. O'Neill, Steven C. Schroer, Amy B. Bromberg
Faegre & Benson
2300 Multifoods Twr., 33 S. 6th St., Minneapolis MN 55402-3694
(612) 371-5300

Counsel for Defendants
Jon M. Hopeman, Ass't U.S. Attorney
234 U.S. Cthse., 110 S. 4th St., Minneapolis MN 55401
(612) 332-8961