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Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell

United States District Court for the District of Columbia
70 F. Supp. 3d 183 (D.D.C. 2014)


Facts

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. § 1533, directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) (defendant) to list species as endangered by relying on the best available scientific data and only after taking into account any efforts that state governments were making to protect those species. FWS instituted a Policy for Evaluation of Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions (PECE). The PECE permitted FWS to take into account states’ efforts not yet implemented and not yet effective, as long as FWS determined that the efforts were sufficiently certain of being implemented and effective. The sand-dune lizard’s habitat was within the Permian Basin in New Mexico and Texas, one of the biggest mineral-producing regions in the country. This mineral production began to harm the lizard’s habitat. In December 2010, FWS issued a proposed rule listing the lizard as endangered. In June 2012, FWS withdrew the proposed rule, stating that the environmental threats to the lizard were not as significant as initially thought. FWS relied on conservation efforts of New Mexico (initiated in 2008), Texas (initiated in February 2012), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) (initiated in 2008) that together covered 89 percent of the lizard’s habitat. These conservation efforts limited mineral development to reduce fragmentation of the lizard’s habitat, and encouraged the restoration of degraded habitat and the reconnection of fragmented habitat. FWS concluded that due to these conservation efforts, there was a high level of certainty that the lizard’s habitat would not further degrade and would actually improve in some areas. The Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) (plaintiff) brought suit against FWS, challenging the decision to withdraw the proposed rule and arguing that the decision was not the product of the best available data, but of political pressure. All parties moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Contreras, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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