Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans

161 F. Supp. 2d 1154 (2001)

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Alsea Valley Alliance v. Evans

United States District Court for the District of Oregon
161 F. Supp. 2d 1154 (2001)

  • Written by Tanya Munson, JD

Facts

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) required the Secretary of Commerce to determine whether certain species were endangered or threatened. The Secretary of Commerce delegated this authority to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) (defendant). The ESA defined species to include any subspecies of fish or distinct population segment of vertebrate fish or wildlife that interbreeds when mature. Neither Congress nor the ESA defined “distinct population segment” (DPS) or set forth restrictive criteria for defining a DPS. The NMFS issued policies interpreting the ESA and the DPS provision with respect to the Pacific salmon. In 1991, NMFS issued a policy that introduced the term “evolutionary significant unit” (ESU) to interpret the ESA’s meaning of DPS. An ESU of the biological species was one that was substantially reproductively isolated from other conspecific population units and that represented an important component in the evolutionary legacy of the species. In 1993, the NMFS published a policy that described how the NMFS considered hatchery populations when making listing decisions about Pacific salmon (the hatchery policy). The hatchery policy interpreted the ESA to require the NMFS to focus recovery efforts on natural, as opposed to artificially propagated, Pacific salmon. The hatchery policy permitted hatchery populations to be included as part of a listed species, but it must be done sparingly because artificial propagation could pose a risk to natural populations. The NMFS determined that hatchery-spawned and naturally spawned coho salmon were part of the same DPS and ESU, but the NMFS excluded hatchery populations from its listing decision unless the populations were part of the ESU and considered essential to recovery. In 1998, the NMFS issued a final rule listing the Oregon Coast coho salmon ESU as threatened. Hatchery populations were not included in the listing decision because they were not considered essential to recovery. Alsea Valley Alliance (Alsea) (plaintiff) challenged the listing decision, arguing that NMFS’s distinction between naturally spawned and hatchery-spawned coho salmon was arbitrary and capricious and unlawful under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA). Alsea filed a motion for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Hogan, J.)

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