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NWF v. Babbitt: Victory for Smart Growth and Imperiled Wildlife

June 2001

Citation: 31 ELR 10712

Issue: 6

Author: John Kostyack

On August 15, 2000, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California issued a landmark ruling, in the case National Wildlife Federation v. Babbitt (NWF v. Babbitt),1 interpreting key provisions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This ruling provides important new direction to local governments, developers, federal wildlife agencies, and others seeking to design habitat conservation plans (HCPs). In striking down the Natomas Basin HCP and incidental take permit (ITP), the court signaled that HCPs purporting to conserve imperiled species that cross jurisdictional boundaries must confront the challenges of planning at the regional scale honestly and must provide guaranteed funding to achieve conservation objectives. This far-sighted ruling may stimulate the regional planning that is so desperately needed to achieve the interrelated goals of countering sprawl, promoting smart growth, and conserving imperiled wildlife.

John Kostyack is Senior Counsel for the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in its Office of Federal and International Affairs in Washington, D.C. In addition to serving as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in NWF v. Babbitt and other complex Endangered Species Act litigation, he manages the NWF's Smart Growth and Wildlife campaign, a nationwide effort to educate people about the harmful impacts of sprawl on wildlife and to promote smart growth solutions at the federal, state, and local levels. His e-mail address is kostyack@nwf.org.

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