Friday, March 13, 2015

The Norfolk Eagles Have Eaglets!

We are thrilled to announce the birth of eaglets who are the offspring of the Norfolk Botanical Garden Eagles we have been working to protect for several years on behalf of the Eagle On Alliance.  Despite the Wildlife Services’ efforts to keep the eagles from nesting – having torn down nine different nests at the Norfolk Botanical Garden – the eagles outsmarted the federal government and moved to a loblolly pine tree on private property where they cannot be touched by Wildlife Services.  After the Fish and Wildlife Service granted the City of Norfolk permits to destroy the eagles’ nests at the Botanical Garden on the grounds that the eagles posed a threat to human safety at the nearby Norfolk International Airport, we filed suit on behalf of EOA to stop the nest destruction, arguing that none of the standards for such activities had been met under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, especially when the well-heeled Airport had failed to take minimum steps to reduce the chance of a bird strike, instead spending millions of dollars putting in a skylight and marble floors at the Airport.  When Wildlife Services lost its bid to be dismissed from the suit, the Airport hired full-time staff to detect and deter wildlife at the Airport and the eagles wisely relocated to safer quarters.  Eagle On Alliance dismissed its lawsuit and started monitoring the new nest activities to ensure the eagles would remain unharmed – and undeterred – in their tenth effort to start a family.  They started building their new nest several months ago, the private property owners steadfastly refused to allow the destruction of the nest, and now, as of yesterday, we have new born eaglets!  The photo below are the Norfolk eagles attending to their young. 

Mike Inman ©

Success In Thwarting Efforts To Remove Wild Horses From The Nevada Range

Judge Du of the Federal District Court for Nevada has granted our motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by various Nevada ranching interests to compel the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove thousands of wild horses from public lands in Nevada and to give management priority to livestock interests on those lands.  On behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign and two individuals we intervened in the case last fall.  Granting our motion to dismiss, Judge Du held that the livestock interests  “fail[ed] to identify any final agency action that warrants judicial review, or any inaction that can be compelled; rather, Plaintiffs ask the Court to ensure that Federal Defendants’ management of wild horses and burros in Nevada complies with [their view of ] the Wild Horse Act.  The Court lacks jurisdiction to oversee such a sweeping request.”  The full decision can be found here.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ringling Brothers Announces It Will No Longer Use Elephants In Its Circus

Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus today announced that it will finally phase out the use of Asian elephants in its Circus.  See New York Times.  With the help of many animal advocates and elephant experts, the Firm has been working on this issue for many years and took the lead in representing a coalition of animal protection groups and Tom Rider, a former barn man for the Circus, in a lawsuit brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), contending that the Circus “takes” the endangered elephants – i.e., “wounds” and “harms them within the meaning of the ESA – by hitting them with sharp bull hooks to make them perform circus tricks, and by keeping them chained on concrete and other hard surfaces for many hours each day.  Elephants are extremely social, intelligent animals, who, in the wild, walk many miles each day.  Although the ESA case was dismissed in 2010 because the Judge found that none of the Plaintiffs had demonstrated adequate Article III standing – and hence he concluded that he did not have jurisdiction under the Constitution to decide the merits of the Plaintiffs’ claims of mistreatment – the evidence produced at the 7 week trial corroborated the plaintiffs' claims concerning the way that the elephants must be treated in order for them to participate in a traveling circus.  Here is Katherine Meyer discussing this development on NPR.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Legal Effort Launched To Save Rare Evergaldes Bird From Extinction

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and renowned biologist Dr. Stuart Pimm, we have put the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Fish and Wildlife Service on formal notice that the Corps’ activities in managing water resources in Everglades National Park are jeopardizing the continued existence of a highly imperiled Everglades-dwelling species, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow.  The notice explains that the Corps is systematically allowing the flooding of the habitat of a crucial subpopulation of sparrows and that the FWS has now acknowledged that far more must be done to protect this subpopulation, which is essential for the survival and recovery of the species as a whole.  A closely related species – the dusky seaside sparrow – went extinct while on the endangered species list, and we are endeavoring to ensure that the same sad fate does not befall the Cape Sable sparrow.  A copy of our notice letter is here.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Groups Object To Use Of Plutonium At The National Ignition Facility

On behalf of NRDC and Tri-Valley CAREs, we have objected to plans for using plutonium in experiments at the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a Rose Bowl-sized laser facility at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in Livermore, California.  We have urged that the plutonium experiments not move forward until environmental and non-proliferation concerns are addressed by the Department of Energy (DOE), which oversees the facility.  These include the risks for worker or public exposure to radioactive material, the likelihood that these experiments may undermine the moratorium on nuclear testing, and the implications of contaminating the facility with plutonium for the potential to use the NIF for non-weapons research in the future.  Our letters to the agency are here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Lolita The Orca Whale To Be Added To The Endangered Species List

Two years after petitioning the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to list Lolita the Orca whale as an endangered species, on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Orca Network, and others, we are happy to announce that NMFS has agreed to add her to the list, thus protecting her under the Endangered Species Act, the nation’s strongest wildlife conservation law.  Our listing petition can be found here, NMFS’ announcement can be found here, and the Federal Register Notice is to be issued on February 6, 2015.  This means that Lolita is officially a member of an “endangered species” who may no longer be “taken” – i.e., “harmed,” “harassed” or otherwise injured by the Seaquarium, a Miami aquarium, where she has been maintained and forced to perform tricks for the public for the last forty years after being taken from the wild.  Lolita’s wild family – the Southern resident killer whale population – was listed as endangered in 2005 as a “distinct population segment.”  However, in the final listing rule, with no explanation, NMFS excluded Lolita – the only remaining member of this population who lives in captivity.   Because Lolita is a member of the listed entity and genetically valuable to its conservation, we petitioned to have her included in the listing.  NMFS’ decision to include Lolita in the endangered listing is an important step to having her finally returned to her wild family.  We are also currently representing the organizations and individuals in a lawsuit against the United States Department of Agriculture for renewing the Seaquarium’s Animal Welfare Act (AWA) license each year when the facility is keeping Lolita in conditions that violate several AWA standards.  The first round of that litigation is scheduled for oral argument in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals next month.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Norfolk Eagle Case Voluntarily Dismissed

Our client Eagle On Alliance (EOA) ended 2 ½ years of litigation by voluntarily dismissing its case against the Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services.  As EOA explained to the Judge presiding over the case, the Norfolk Eagles have now moved to private property where their nests can no longer be destroyed by the federal government, and the Norfolk International Airport recently hired full-time staff to detect and deter birds on the runways at the Airport (evidently in response to our lawsuit).  Because protecting the eagles and having the Airport do more to avoid collisions between birds and aircraft were the main goals of the lawsuit, EOA determined that there was no reason to continue with the suit.  The case was dismissed “without prejudice” meaning that if any action is taken to harm the Eagles, EOA would not be foreclosed from bringing another case. The Eagles have spent the last several months building their nest and are clearly getting ready to produce a new clutch!  Here is a recent photograph of “Dad Norfolk” standing in his new nest; and of the Norfolk pair.