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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20097
Nos. 14-1907, (D.D.C., 05/25/2016) (Bates, J.)

A district court vacated two FWS depredation orders reauthorizing the killing of double-crested cormorants in certain states. The court previously held that FWS violated NEPA when it reissued the orders. At issue here was the remedy. FWS argued that remand without vacatur was appropriate, whereas plaintiffs argued the depredation orders should be vacated until FWS completes its environmental review. The court sided with the plaintiffs. Because the forecasted harms are speculative or imprecise, FWS failed to make a compelling case that rescission will cause significant consequences to the aquaculture industry. In addition, FWS' concerns about impacts to its own operations were "frankly unexceptional." Meanwhile, plaintiffs offered countervailing evidence that environmental harm will result if the orders are left in place: cormorants will be killed, and certain beneficial ecosystem services that cormorants provide would be lost. The court therefore vacated the orders.