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Loggerhead Turtle v. County Council of Volusia County, Florida
United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
148 F.3d 1231 (1998)
Two varieties of sea turtles were endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In the spring, the turtles would lay their eggs in the sand of a 40-mile stretch of beach in Volusia County, Florida (the county) (defendant). Later, guided by moonlight, the sea-turtle hatchlings would endeavor to reach the ocean, but artificial-light sources would disorient or misorient them. The county allowed nighttime beach driving and beachfront artificial-light sources. Several citizens and turtle species (citizens) (plaintiffs) sued the county under the ESA, primarily seeking injunctive relief to stop beach driving and beachfront artificial-light sources that adversely impacted sea turtles. While the lawsuit was pending, the county obtained an incidental-take permit (ITP) from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) that authorized 11 types of incidental takes of sea turtles relating to beach driving but only mentioned beachfront lighting in the context of mitigation measures to reduce the impact to sea turtles from vehicles and vehicle headlights. The county argued that the mention of beachfront lighting in the ITP as a mitigation measure was intended to exempt that activity from the ESA’s prohibition on taking. The district court agreed and dismissed the citizens’ suit. The citizens appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Hatchett, C.J.)
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