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National Wildlife Fed'n v. Caldera

ELR Citation: 32 ELR 20570
Nos. No. 00-1031 (JR), (D.D.C., 03/26/2002)

The court holds that it lacks jurisdiction over claims brought by environmental groups against various governmental agencies protesting the issuance by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) of 23 permits for various kinds of construction in Florida and their effect on the Florida panther. The court holds that because the groups seek broad programmatic relief, it lacks jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that the final agency action requirement of §704 of the Administrative Procedure Act precludes federal court jurisdiction of suits for broad programmatic relief. Although the groups purported to challenge the permits, upon closer inspection it turns out that most, if not all, of the permitted work has been done and that the groups are really seeking an injunction that would order the Corps and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) into a consultation to design a program that would provide broader systemic relief for the plight of the Florida panther. The challenged permits are really only examples of what the groups see as rampant unlawfulness in the permitting program of the Corps and the FWS. Similarly, the groups' prayer for judicial declarations that the permits and various policies of the agencies are invalid does not save their case. Because the groups do not seek site-specific relief, the prayer for declaratory relief is merely another way of approaching the programmatic relief that the court does not have jurisdiction to grant.

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (15 pp., ELR Order No. L-486).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
John Kostyack
National Wildlife Federation
1400 16th St. NW, Ste. 501, Washington DC 20036
(202) 797-6800

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