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McGrail & Rowley, Inc. v. Babbitt

986 F. Supp. 1386 (1997)

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McGrail & Rowley, Inc. v. Babbitt

United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

986 F. Supp. 1386 (1997)

Facts

McGrail and Rowley, Inc. (MRI) (plaintiff) was in the business of renting catamarans out of Key West, Florida. In 1908, the Key West National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established to provide a preserve and breeding ground for native birds. In 1992, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) (defendant) and the State of Florida Department of Natural Resources adopted a management plan, the “Management Agreement for Submerged Lands Within Boundaries of the Key West and Great Heron National Wildlife Refuge.” The management plan provided that to curtail damage to the wilderness, commercial use of refuge islands required a permit. Permits were to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. MRI had been transporting passengers to a public beach in Boca Grande Key without a permit and submitted a permit application in June of 1994. In August 1994, refuge manager of the Key West NWR, Jon Andrews (defendant), provided MRI with a letter in which the FWS denied MRI’s permit application. In the letter, the FWS found that MRI’s proposed activities were not compatible with the purposes of the refuge. The agency’s decision to deny MRI’s permit was based on various laws, regulations, and internal guidelines. Refuge manager Andrews relied on a wildlife biologist’s assessment of MRI’s proposal and found that MRI’s proposed activities would adversely affect wilderness values and were incompatible with the purposes of the refuge. Andrews also found that refuge resources were inadequate to administer and manage MRI’s proposed uses. In October 1994, MRI appealed the denial. The FWS did not process MRI’s appeal. In March 1995, MRI filed an action in district court requesting the court to order the FWS to provide MRI with an appeal. The FWS agreed to process MRI’s appeal. MRI was invited to arrange an oral presentation and to submit written material in support of its appeal, but MRI failed to do so. In May of 1995, the FWS regional director upheld refuge manager Andrews’s denial of the permit by letter. MRI filed suit in district court challenging FWS’s denial of the permit.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Roettger, J.)

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