Thursday, May 16, 2013
In a new chapter to the decades-old saga of off-road vehicle (“ORV”) management in Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve, we filed suit this week on behalf of a coalition of national and regional conservation organizations challenging the National Park Service’s creation of a massive network of secondary ORV trails in violation of the Preserve’s management plan and various federal environmental laws. Park Service officials have long acknowledged the devastating impacts of rampant ORV use on the Preserve’s sensitive soils, vegetation, hydrological patterns, and wildlife (which includes the highly endangered Florida panther, among other federally listed species), but the Service has nevertheless authorized an extensive off-road vehicle network that caters to recreational ORV users at the expense of these vulnerable resources. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, where four previous related lawsuits have been filed. The complaint is here and a press release concerning the new case is here.
Friday, May 10, 2013
Today, on behalf of a coalition of local DC residents and In Defense of Animals, we filed a Notice of Appeal of the district court’s ruling upholding the National Park Service’s decision to allow sharpshooters to decimate native deer in Rock Creek Park in Washington DC. This is the first time in the 123 year history of the Park that the federal government has allowed the killing of any native wildlife.
The number of deer in Rock Creek Park has been stable for at least ten years, and there is no urgent problem facing the Park that would warrant gunning down native wildlife in close proximity to residential neighborhoods. Even if there were a problem, it could be handled much more humanely with fertility control – a method that has worked to control wild deer and horses in other parts of the county. A petition asking the National Park Service to reconsider this shotgun approach to managing RockCreek Park has garnered more than 5,000 signatures.
Friday, April 26, 2013
Agreeing with the argument presented by our client Oxfam America, Inc., the D.C. Circuit today dismissed the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Petition for Review challenging a key provision of Dodd-Frank that requires publicly traded oil and gas companies to disclose their payments to governments. API argued the regulation was overly burdensome and violated the companies’ First Amendment rights, but the Court agreed with us that it lacks jurisdiction to hear the case, which must be presented first in the district court. Today’s opinion is here.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) yesterday issued a "positive 90-day finding" on a petition to include the orca named Lolita among the wild southern resident killer whales who are listed as "endangered" and from which Lolita was captured in the early 1970s and put on exhibition in Miami Florida. We represent the Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, the Orca Network, and several individuals in pressing to have Lolita protected under the ESA. Since her capture, Lolita has been living in a tank of water at the Miami Seaquarium which falls below the minimum standards for cetaceans of her size, and where she is denied shelter from the sun and companions of her own species. NMFS has concluded that the listing petition presents "substantial scientific or commercial information indicating" that including Lolita as endangered is "warranted." The agency will now have nine months -- after notice and comment from the public -- to decide whether Lolita should be listed. For a copy of the agency's decision click here.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
On behalf of the grassroots group Eagle On Alliance the firm today sent a letter to the City Manager for Norfolk Virginia, detailing multiple violations of a permit issued under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act with respect to eagles that have been making their nest at the Norfolk Botanical Garden for over a decade. In October 2012, the City was given a permit by the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove 3 eagles nests at the Garden, claiming that these eagles pose a risk of an airplane collision at the nearby International Norfolk Airport. Since then, the City, with the help of the United States Department of Agriculture (and federal taxpayer money) has removed at least 6 nests, as the eagle pair – determined to engage in successful nesting this Spring – continue to rebuild their nest each time it is torn down by the City. Although there are other ways for the Airport to protect the public from any risk of an eagle-plane collision at the Airport, Eagle On Alliance has also suggested taking measures to help these eagles relocate their nest further away from the Airport. However, to date, the City has rejected these proposals and insists on continuing to destroy the nest each time the eagles reconstruct it. Because, as the FWS itself acknowledges, “bald eagles exhibit high nest fidelity,” the City apparently intends to continue to tear down these nests indefinitely, rather than pursue more reasonable alternatives. A copy of the letter sent by the firm can be found here; a recent photograph of one of the eagles building its nest can be found here.
Monday, March 11, 2013
At the annual Environmental and Natural Resources Law Conference last weekend in Eugene, Oregon -- the nation’s largest annual conference devoted to public interest environmental law -- Kathy and Eric were awarded the prestigious Kerry Rydberg Award for excellence in environmental litigation. Each year the students of the University of Oregon Law School’s Land, Air, Water (LAW) conference present the award for outstanding achievements in grass-roots environmental law. The award is given in honor of a 1987 Oregon Law school graduate who was dedicated to public interest law until a tragic automobile accident ended his life. Kathy and Eric attended the ceremony via Skype and paid tribute to their clients, professional colleagues, past firm attorneys, and especially the other lawyers and administrative staff at the firm – Howard Crystal, Bill Eubanks, Jessica Almy, Leslie Mink, and Amanda Barker. Eric and Kathy also expressed their admiration and appreciation for all of the public interest attorneys who dedicate their legal careers to trying to save the Earth’s wild places and creatures.
Friday, March 8, 2013
On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) and the Maricopa Audubon Society we have provided formal notice of Endangered Species Act violations in connection with federal agency actions harming the Southwestern willow flycatcher, a highly endangered bird in Arizona and other southwestern states. Because of the ongoing destruction of the flycatcher’s native riparian willow habitat, the species has been forced to adapt in many locations to living in tamarisk, an exotic plant that frequently occupies degraded riparian habitats in the southwestern U.S. Beginning in the late 1990s, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service – an agency within the Department of Agriculture – began to permit and otherwise facilitate the release of tamarisk-eating beetles – another non-native species on the theory that this would help to eradicate tamarisk. Grave concerns were raised by the Fish and Wildlife Service, CBD, and others that this program could do serious harm to the flycatcher unless steps were taken to ensure that any impact on flycatcher habitat would be mitigated by strenuous efforts to restore native willow vegetation in locations where tamarisk might be destroyed. However, APHIS assured the Service and others that the particular species of beetle being released would not be able to survive in the latitudes where flycatchers exist and, on that basis, the release program was allowed to proceed. Soon thereafter, APHIS’s prediction proved false, and the beetle is now decimating flycatcher habitat, creating a massive new threat to this already highly imperiled species. But although APHIS has now halted new releases of the beetle, it has made no commitment to mitigate for the ongoing devastating impacts of its earlier actions. Regrettably, to date, the FWS has signed off on that course of conduct. Accordingly, we have sent a detailed notice to APHIS, FWS, and other federal officials that merely walking away from the unfolding disaster for which APHIS is directly responsible contravenes various provisions of the Endangered Species Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act. A copy of the notice can be found here. A copy of CBD’s press release concerning the notice can be found here.