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Southwest Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Clark

ELR Citation: 30 ELR 20050
Nos. No. 98-0769M/JHG, 90 F. Supp. 2d 1300/(D.N.M., 08/02/1999)

The court holds that environmental groups have standing to bring suit against the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for failing to redesignate critical habitat for the spikedace and loach minnow even though the groups' members cannot see and are unable to distinguish the fish in their natural habitat from other fish species. The court first holds that the group presented a factual showing of perceptible harm sufficient to confer standing. Simply because government action or inaction threatens a species that is too small, too few, too obscure or remote, or too imperceptible to be separated out from its environment by common citizens who enjoy that environment, the law should not assume that no one is harmed and no relief is available. Moreover, a group member's affidavit presents a significant stake in the outcome and a direct benefit and potential loss personal to that member. The court additionally holds that the groups established a causal connection between DOI's failure to designate a critical habitat and the threat to the minnows' survival. Last, the court holds that the groups satisfy the redressability prong of standing. A decision in the groups' favor could help maintain the number of spikedace and loach minnow now present in the rivers that are enjoyed and studied by the groups. The court, therefore, vacates a previous order granting an intervenor time to conduct discovery to determine whether the groups have standing in this case. The court already determined that the groups have standing, thus, discovery on this issue would only delay the case.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Matt Kenna
Kenna & Hickox
1300 Meadow Rd., Durango CO 81301
(970) 385-6941

Counsel for Defendants
John W. Zavitz, Ass't U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney's Office
625 Silver Ave. SW, Ste. 400, Albuquerque NM 87102
(505) 766-3341/346-7274