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Trout Unlimited v. Lohn

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20143
Nos. No. CV06-0483-JCC, (W.D. Wash., 06/13/2007)

A district court held that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-Fisheries (NOAA-Fisheries) did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it chose not to prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) or environmental assessment for its Hatchery Listing Policy (HLP) for Pacific salmon and steelhead trout. Though general statements of policy will usually be subject to the procedural requirements of NEPA, the court concluded that a clear and unavoidable conflict in statutory authority exempts the HLP under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The factors that must be considered in determining whether a species is to be listed as threatened or endangered are statutorily enumerated in the ESA. The HLP, as a guidance document designed to assist the Secretary in making listing determinations, is an inseparable component of those listing decisions. Accordingly, it makes little sense to require the Secretary to comply with the EIS requirement when ultimately, the determination as to whether to list the species would be controlled by the factors enumerated in the ESA. Moreover, the procedural guarantees of NEPA have been displaced by the procedures found in the ESA. Here, the ESA adequately ensures that the HLP will be applied in a way that is consistent with the ESA's fundamentally environmentalist purpose. Hence, the conservationist purpose of NEPA is not extinguished; it merely finds expression elsewhere.