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New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau v. United States Department of Interior

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20062
Nos. 17-2211, (10th Cir., 03/17/2020)

The Tenth Circuit reversed and remanded a district court ruling upholding FWS' designation of critical habitat for the endangered jaguar. Ranching groups challenged the designation because it did not comport with the ESA's requirement that such areas be "essential for the conservation of the species." The district court held that although there was insufficient evidence to support a finding that jaguars occupied the designated area, the designation was not arbitrary or capricious because FWS alternatively determined that that the area could be designated as unoccupied critical habitat under the ESA. On appeal, the court held that the agency did not find that the designation of areas occupied by jaguars when the species was listed would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species, nor did it make any findings as to whether an individual area designated as unoccupied was essential for the species' conservation, and thus that it failed to comply with its obligation to designate unoccupied critical habitat "only when a designation limited to its present range would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the species." Because FWS failed to follow its own regulations or provide a rational explanation, its designation of critical habitat for the jaguar was arbitrary and capricious. The court therefore reversed the district court ruling and remanded for further proceedings.