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Wild Fish Conservancy v. National Park Service

ELR Citation: 47 ELR 20060
Nos. 14-35791, (9th Cir., 04/18/2017)

The Ninth Circuit held that NMFS and DOI did not violate NEPA or the ESA when they approved the use of hatcheries to restore Elwha River fish populations in the state of Washington, after a dam removal project. Environmental groups challenged the decision to approve the hatchery as arbitrary and capricious, and a violation of NEPA as NMFS conducted a EA instead of an EIS. Further, the groups claimed that the decision violated the ESA as the hatchery operations were an unauthorized "take." The appellate court agreed with the district court, finding that NMFS did not violate NEPA as it had suggested hatcheries two decades ago and conducted an EIS. The EA it conducted showed that the project was not highly controversial and posed no cumulatively significant impact on the environment. Because NMFS satisfied its NEPA obligations, DOI did as well as a participant in the preparation of the assessment. Further, the court found that the ESA claims were moot in light of NMFS’s Limit 6 approval and Incidental Take Statement. The district court ruling was affirmed.