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General Land Office of Texas v. United States Department of the Interior

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20020
Nos. 19-50178, (5th Cir., 01/15/2020)

The Fifth Circuit vacated FWS' 2016 decision denying a petition to delist the golden-cheeked warbler, which was listed as an endangered species under the ESA in 1990. Texas' General Land Office argued that the decision violated NEPA because the Service failed to prepare an EIS. The court found that NEPA's procedural requirements did not apply to ESA listing decisions, and thus that the district court's decision dismissing the claim was correct. The Office also argued that FWS violated the ESA by applying an incorrect legal standard to conclude that it was not required to proceed to the 12-month review stage. The court found that FWS applied an inappropriately heightened legal standard by requiring the petition to contain information that the Service had not considered in its five-year review sufficient to disprove the review's conclusions, and thus that the decision was arbitrary and capricious. It therefore vacated the decision and remanded to FWS to evaluate the delisting petition under the correct legal standard.