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Delaware Audubon Society v. Secretary of the Interior

United States District Court for the District of Delaware
612 F.Supp.2d 442 (2009)


Facts

The Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (Prime Hook), located in Delaware, was formed to provide habitat for migratory birds and other species. Regulations implementing the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act (NWRSAA), 50 C.F.R. §§ 25.12 and 25.21, required the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) (defendant) to make a written compatibility determination as to whether a proposed use of the national-wildlife-refuge land was compatible with the refuge’s purposes. The FWS entered into 37 cooperative-farming agreements that allowed Prime Hook to be used for commercial farming. Prior to entering into these agreements, the FWS did not make any compatibility determinations or conduct studies to determine if farming was compatible with Prime Hook’s purposes. The agreements allowed farmers to use genetically modified (GM) crops, which was in violation of the FWS’s policy that GM crops could only be used if they were essential to accomplishing the refuge’s purposes. In April 2006, the Delaware Audubon Society, Inc. (Audubon) (plaintiff) brought suit against the FWS, claiming that cooperative farming with GM crops violated the NWRSAA, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Audubon sought to enjoin cooperative farming until the completion of a compatibility determination, and to enjoin GM crop cultivation until the completion of environmental review under NEPA. The cooperative agreements expired in December 2006. After the commencement of the lawsuit, the FWS stated that it would not enter into any additional agreements until the completion of compatibility determinations and NEPA review. The FWS argued that Audubon’s claims were moot, because cooperative farming and farming with GM crops had ceased at Prime Hook and would not resume until the completion of the compatibility determinations and NEPA review. Audubon moved for summary judgment.

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Sleet, C.J.)

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