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Organized Fishermen of Fla. v. Watt

Citation: 14 ELR 20917
No. No. 80-0789-Civ-SMA, 590 F. Supp. 805/(S.D. Fla., 07/06/1984)

The court upholds regulations banning commercial fishing and restricting sport fishing in the Everglades National Park against challenged violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, agreements with the State of Florida, the Department of the Interior's internal regulations, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and due process. The court holds that the regulations were within the agency's statutory authority and were not arbitrary or capricious. The Secretary of the Interior has broad discretion in administering the public lands. In establishing the National Park Service, Congress empowered the Secretary to make rules necessary for management of the parks. When it created the Everglades National Park, Congress directed the Secretary to protect the Park's fauna and did not expressly preserve commercial fishing access. The record amply establishes reasons for the regulations consistent with the Park's purposes.

The court next holds that plaintiffs cannot press a claim as third-party beneficiaries to an alleged contract between the United States and Florida made at the Park's creation. The contractual rights are not mentioned in any legislation, and the court lacks jurisdiction to order specific performance absent a waiver of sovereign immunity.

Further, the court holds that the Secretary complied with all internal rulemaking procedures. Though Executive Order 12044 requires economic analyses of "significant" rules, the regulations at issue do not qualify as significant. Also, the Order creates no private right of action.

Plaintiffs lack standing to raise a NEPA challenge, since their interest is purely economic and so not within NEPA's zone of protected interests. Also, the regulations do not violate due process. They are not unconstitutionally vague, and they do not take plaintiffs' property. Plaintiffs' fishing licenses, which will be cancelled, represent privileges, not property rights. Like grazing permits, they may be withdrawn at any time. Even if the licenses represented entitlements, plaintiffs' procedural due process rights have been honored.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Douglas M. Halsey
Thomson, Zeder, Bohrer, Werth, Adams & Razook
1000 SE Bank Bldg., Miami FL 33131
(305) 350-1100

Counsel for Defendants
Michael J. Mitchell, Ass't U.S. Attorney
155 S. Miami Ave., Miami FL 33130
(305) 350-4471

Counsel for Intervenors
E.S. Corlett III
Corlett, Killian, Hardeman, McIntosh & Levi
116 W. Flagler St., Miami Fl 33130