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National Audubon Soc'y v. Hester

ELR Citation: 16 ELR 20940
Nos. No. 86-5086, 801 F.2d 405/(D.C. Cir., 06/10/1986) Rev'd; opinion issued Sept. 5, 1986

The court holds that the Fish and Wildlife Service's (FWS') decision to remove all remaining California condors from the wild was a reasonable exercise of agency discretion and did not violate either the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The court initially observes that a district court's grant of equitable relief will usually be reversed only for abuse of discretion, but the injunction issued would not be upheld if it resulted from an erroneous view of the law. The court then holds that the appropriate standard of review is the arbitrary and capricious standard. The court notes that the ESA, Administrative Procedure Act, and in this circuit, NEPA all allow judicial interference with an administrative decision only if that decision is arbitrary and capricious. On the merits, the court holds that FWS's revision of its earlier decision not to capture all the remaining condors was not arbitrary and capricious. The FWS' October 1985 environmental assessment (EA) left room for the agency to reevaluate its decision, and FWS' later decision to capture the condors did not drastically change prior FWS policy. Moreover, the court holds that FWS was entitled to amend its policy even without a change in circumstances, as long as it adequately explained the reasons for the amended policy. The court holds that FWS did adequately explain its reasons for the changed policy. FWS substantially weighed seven alternative policies to protect the condor in its earlier EA and adopted reasoning from the EA along with reasons for a different policy preference in the December addendum.

[The lower court opinion appears at 16 ELR 20445.]

Counsel for Appellees
William A. Butler
National Audubon Society
654 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington DC 20003
(202) 547-9009

Counsel for Appellants
Karen Florini
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2000

Before: EDWARDS, STARR, and SILBERMAN, Circuit Judges.