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Western Watersheds Project v. Salazar

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20236
Nos. 11-00492, (C.D. Cal., 11/05/2012) (Gee, J.)

A district court held that DOI complied with NEPA, the ESA, and FLPMA when it approved the construction of a large solar power plant in California's Mojave Desert. Environmental groups filed suit, alleging that BLM and FWS inadequately considered the project's effect on existing populations of desert tortoise and bird species. But BLM took the requisite "hard look" at the project's impacts on the desert tortoise and "special status" birds under NEPA. BLM's decision to focus their analysis on the adult population of tortoises was reasonable, as was its conclusion that the project would not greatly increase habitat fragmentation. BLM also fairly considered the effectiveness and environmental consequences of its translocation strategy for the tortoise. In addition, FWS' biological opinion complied with the ESA. There was nothing inconsistent about the FWS' conclusion that the project would not jeopardize the desert tortoise as a species, which was more than adequately supported by the record. And the groups failed to support their claim that DOI failed to comply with FLPMA.