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Center for Biological Diversity v. Otter

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20011
Nos. 1:14-CV-258, (D. Idaho, 01/08/2016) (Winmill)

A district court ordered the state of Idaho to propose a plan to protect the Canada lynx, a threatened species, from being inadvertently captured or killed in northern Idaho due to traps set by trappers intending to lure other species. The state does not restrict how many traps or snares a licensed trapper may set each year. But trappers must notify the state if they trap a "nontarget" animal. Between 2012 and 2014, four unintended captures of the Canada lynx were reported to the state. Environmental groups filed suit, alleging that these captures violated the ESA. They also alleged that the state's trapping regulations fail to sufficiently protect the lynx and that the court should impose more protective trapping regulations in lynx habitat. The court agreed that the four reported trapping incidents were takings in violation of ESA §9, rejecting defendants' arguments that causation was lacking. The court also rejected claims that the Tenth Amendment barred injunctive relief and that the defendants were immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. Nor does a FWS incidental take statement for bobcats issued under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora exempt three of the takes by trappers licensed to trap bobcats. But the existence of lynx and their habitat varies widely throughout the state, and the groups could only demonstrate that future incidental takes were likely in the state's Panhandle and Clearwater regions. The court therefore ordered the defendants to propose a plan to protect the lynx in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions from future incidental take. The defendants were given 90 days to submit the plan, after which the groups will have an opportunity to review and, if necessary, to challenge that plan.