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Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv.

ELR Citation: 32 ELR 20536
Nos. No. 1:00-CV-762, 189 F. Supp. 2d 684/(W.D. Mich., 03/06/2002)

The court grants summary judgment to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in a suit brought against it by an environmental group and individuals that alleged that FWS and Michigan arbitrarily and capriciously administered four conservation grants to the state under the Federal Aid to Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act). In 1996 and 1997, the state received its Pittman-Robertson Act grant in one single grant. From 1998 to 2002, the state received four separate grants under the Act for habitat management, operations and maintenance, hunting access, and planning. In 2000, the state discontinued participation in the habitat management grant. The court first holds that the challenge to the administration of the habitat management grant is moot because the court can issue no relief that would affect the legal interests of the parties. The five-year planning process under the Pittman-Robertson Act does not obligate the federal government or the state to act or dispense funds. Rather, the federal government's obligation to pay funds arises from a yearly grant agreement it enters with the state for the payment of the funds. Likewise, the state's obligation to carry out grant work arises from the yearly grant agreement. Thus, when the state discontinued participation in the habitat management grant and the five-year planning process contemplated in 1997, the state did not improperly terminate a partially completed federal project. The court next holds that the fact that the state continued to participate in the other three grants did not amount to unlawful segmentation of a federal action for National Environmental Policy Act purposes. The court further holds that the group and the individuals lacked standing to challenge the administration of the remaining three grants. The group and the individuals alleged aesthetic injuries, but such injuries do not constitute a concrete and particularized injury in environmental cases. Moreover, the adverse effects on wildlife and plants alleged by the group as injuries flow from the administration of the habitat management grant and not the planning, hunting, and operations and maintenance grants. The group's and individuals' alleged informational injuries are also insufficient to support standing.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (21 pp., ELR Order No. L-473).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert B. Wiygul
Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
1631 Glenarm Pl., Denver CO 80202
(303) 623-9466

Counsel for Defendants
Alice C. Thurston
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000