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Desert Survivors v. U.S. Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 48 ELR 20152
Nos. 16-cv-01165-JCS, (N.D. Cal., 08/24/2018) (Spero, J.)

A district court vacated and set aside FWS' 2015 decision not to list an isolated population of greater sage grouse as threatened under the ESA. The court's ruling follows an order previously issued by that court granting summary judgment when it concluded that the agency's decision was arbitrary and capricious under the APA and unsupported by the record. Both the plaintiff environmental groups and the agency agreed the appropriate remedy was to vacate the decision and remand to the agency. The court therefore vacated the decision and reinstated the agency's prior proposal to list the species and designate critical habitat. In its summary judgment order, the court also concluded that the agency's definition of "significant" in its policy interpretating the ESA phrase "significant portion of its range" was an impermissible interpretation of the language. Both the groups and the agency agreed the policy should be vacated, but the agency argued that the vacatur order should be limited to the particular geographical region in which the groups' injury occurred. The court disagreed, concluding that the groups' challenge to the definition of "significant" under the policy is ripe for review, thus giving the groups standing to seek vacatur without a geographical limitation.