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Markle Interests, LLC v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service

ELR Citation: 44 ELR 20192
Nos. No. 13-234, (E.D. La., 08/22/2014) (Feldman, J.)

A district court upheld FWS' designation of 1,544 acres of a privately owned tree farm in Louisiana as critical habitat essential for the conservation of the dusky gopher frog, an endangered species. The frog, listed in 2001, is located only in Mississippi; it does not presently occupy the tree farm, where it was last sighted in the 1960s. Nevertheless, FWS included portions of the tree farm in its critical habitat designation, finding this land essential to conserving the species. The landowners challenged the designation, arguing that it was arbitrary. But FWS' finding that the unique ponds located on the farm are essential for the frog's recovery is supported by the ESA and by the record. The landowners claimed that the designation was irrational, contending that the property provides no benefit to the dusky gopher frog and the designation would ultimately cost the landowners somewhere between $20.4 million and $33.9 million. But the record establishes that FWS neither engaged in a flawed economic analysis nor otherwise failed to consider all potential economic impacts the designation would have on the farm. In addition, the landowners were given the opportunity to participate in the process for evaluating economic impacts. So, while the court recognized that the government's action may be "harsh" and "intrusive," FWS fulfilled its statutory obligations.