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Cascadia Wildlands v. Thrailkill

806 F.3d 1234 (2015)

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Cascadia Wildlands v. Thrailkill

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

806 F.3d 1234 (2015)

Facts

The Douglas Complex Fire destroyed approximately 48,000 acres of forest in Oregon’s Klamath Mountains. In response, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) initiated the Douglas Complex Fire Recovery Project (the recovery project) to salvage burned acreage by salvage logging fire-killed or injured trees. The BLM completed an environmental assessment and solicited public comment. The BLM also conducted a biological assessment that determined the recovery project was likely to adversely affect the northern spotted owl. This prompted the BLM to consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The FWS issued a biological opinion that the recovery project would be likely to take 14 adult owls and 10 young spotted owls. The FWS’s opinion was based on several long-term BLM surveys conducted by various surveyors to examine the effect of the project on spotted predator populations. The FWS determined that the project would not cause any impact on predatory barred owl populations that would adversely affect spotted owls. The FWS also used scientific reports regarding pre-fire habitats to predict shift patterns of spotted owls to post-fire habitats. The FWS concluded, based on three studies of spotted owl fidelity after being affected by fires, that spotted owls would increase their nesting range and shift to different, unburned habitats. The FWS ultimately determined that there was no jeopardy and no adverse modification to the spotted owl’s critical habitat from the proposed action. Cascadia Wildlands (Cascadia) (plaintiffs) filed suit in district court and sought to enjoin the recovery project. Cascadia argued that the FWS did not comply with the Endangered Species Act because it did not actually apply scientific data in preparing its biological opinion. The district court found that Cascadia failed to prove a likelihood of success on the merits and denied a preliminary injunction. Cascadia appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Rawlinson, J.)

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