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National Wildlife Fed'n v. Coleman

Citation: 5 ELR 20566
No. No. J75-129(N), 400 F. Supp. 705/(S.D. Miss., 08/04/1975)

The court has jurisdiction under § 7 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to hear a suit seeking to halt construction of an interstate highway through the habitat of the Mississippi Sandhill Crane, but rules that the plaintiffs are not entitled to the requested relief. The crane is an endangered species and the habitat in question has been designated as "critical" by the Secretary of the Interior, but plaintiffs have failed to show that the highway project will jeopardize the continued existence of the crane or result in the destruction or modification of that habitat. The testimony of plaintiffs' own expert witness indicates that the crane can tolerate the direct effects of the highway, and allegations that industrial and residential development harmful to the crane will accompany or follow highway construction remain unsupported speculation. Plaintiffs have standing to sue under the Act, and a letter expressing opposition to the project and alleging violations of § 7 served to fulfill the statute's 60-day notice requirement. The court also rules that the suit was not barred by laches since it was filed only three weeks after federal plans, specifications and estimates approval of the project. Plaintiffs' contention that § 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act provides an alternative ground for jurisdiction is in error, because the state Attorney General has determined that the land in question is not publicly owned land from a park or wildlife and waterfowl refuge within the meaning of that section.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert J. Golten General Counsel
National Wildlife Federation
1412 16th St., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20036

A. Spencer Gilbert
Mississippi Wildlife Federation
P.O. Box 1267
Jackson, Miss. 39205

Counsel for Defendants
Joe Brown Asst U.S. Attorney
U.S. Post Office & Courthouse
Jackson, Miss. 39205

Brent Ward
Department of Justice
Washington, D.C. 20530

James Billett Regional Counsel
Federal Highway Administration
1720 Peachtree Road N.W.
Suite 200
Atlanta, Ga. 30309

Frank E. Shanahan, Jr. Asst. Attorney General
P.O. Box 1850
Jackson, Miss. 39205