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Defenders of Wildlife v. Babbitt

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20477
Nos. No. CIV. A. 99-927(ESH), 130 F. Supp. 2d 121/(D.D.C., 02/12/2001)

The court holds that various federal agencies violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in their preparations of biological assessments (BAs), biological opinions (BOs), and environmental impact statements (EIS) with respect to the survival of the Sonoran pronghorn. The pronghorn exists in the United States only in southwest Arizona on federally owned land, managed in part by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the U.S. National Park Service, different military branches, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. Because the pronghorn is an endangered species, before taking any action that may affect it, each agency must prepare a BA for FWS, and then FWS and the agency must prepare a BO, which may provide for the incidental take of the pronghorn. The court first holds that the FWS failed to analyze in its BOs the cumulative effects of all of the federal activities that affect the pronghorn as ESA §7(a)(2) requires. Several of the agencies failed to include an analysis of the total impact on the species in their BOs. Moreover, the BOs of several of the agencies are deficient because of their overly narrow definition of action area, which results in the exclusion of certain relevant impacts from the environmental baseline. Because of these deficiencies, the BOs were remanded for further consultation, consideration, and revisions. Further, on remand the FWS must reconsider its opinions as to the impact of the incidental take authorized by each BO in light of the revisions made to the BOs. The court further holds that although the recovery plan developed by the FWS adequately contains site-specific management actions, it failed to discuss the five criteria necessary before downlisting a species from endangered to threatened, and lacked appropriate time estimates for its implementation schedule. The court finally holds that the EIS prepared by some of the agencies violated NEPA because they failed to consider cumulative impacts.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Howard M. Crystal
Meyer & Glitzenstein
1601 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 450, Washington DC 20009
(202) 588-5206

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