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WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Forest Service

ELR Citation: 50 ELR 20114
Nos. 1:19-cv-00203-CWD, (D. Idaho, 05/07/2020) (Dale, J.)

A magistrate judge granted in part and denied in part the Forest Service's and FWS' motion to dismiss a lawsuit concerning a Forest Service policy that allows states to decide whether bait can be used to hunt black bears in national forests. Environmental groups argued that numerous grizzly bears had been taken due to the use of bait in national forests in Idaho and Wyoming, exceeding the level of permissible incidental take and triggering the agencies' duty to reinitiate consultation under the ESA. FWS argued the groups failed to state a prima facie claim against it because it did not have the authority to reinitiate consultation under the ESA, and moved to dismiss. The court found the plain language of the relevant regulation applied equally to the Forest Service and FWS. The groups also argued the Forest Service failed to supplement its prior NEPA analysis despite the existence of significant new information requiring it to do so. The Service moved to dismiss because the D.C. Circuit previously determined that the policy was not a major federal action triggering a duty under NEPA. The court found that the policy had already been approved and thus that there was no ongoing or proposed federal action that required supplementation. It therefore denied FWS' motion to dismiss the groups' ESA claim, and granted the Forest Service's motion to dismiss their NEPA claim.