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.   

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.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Court Grants Wild Horse Advocates’ Motion to Intervene in State of Wyoming’s Suit Seeking Removal of Wild Horses from Range

The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming has granted our motion to intervene on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, and wild horse advocates and photographers Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl, in a case brought by the State of Wyoming against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Wyoming seeks a court order requiring the removal of hundreds of wild horses from public lands in Wyoming—a state in which fewer than 2,500 wild horses remain, which is far below the federal government’s established Appropriate Management Level for the state’s wild horse population. Our clients wanted to intervene in the case to ensure that the interests of wild horses are protected from the pro-ranching special interests and their allies in state government. The purpose of our intervention is to prevent the federal government from acceding to the State’s claims that the horses must be removed from the public lands to protect the private livestock that are allowed to graze on the same lands, and which outnumber wild horses in the state by the thousands. The Judge’s Order granted our clients intervention as a matter of right in order to protect their aesthetic, educational, and economic interests in the wild horses that roam the range in Wyoming.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Brief Filed to Conserve Endangered Songbird Habitat in Response to USDA’s Ill-Advised Use of Invasive Beetles

Today we filed our opening merits brief in Nevada against various federal agencies for their roles in deliberately releasing an invasive beetle species in the southwestern United States and then, when confronted with evidence that it was having unanticipated and severe effects on critical habitat of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher, simply abandoning the beetle release program without implementing any mitigation measures to ameliorate the widespread harm that has been caused, and continues to occur, to flycatcher habitat as a result of previous releases.  The beetle release efforts were led by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The continued spread of the beetle – which has already invaded the nesting areas of flycatchers in Nevada, southern Utah, and northern and western Arizona – is seriously threatening the flycatcher’s survival and recovery prospects, and continues to significantly and adversely modify the species’ critical habitat.  The agencies’ refusal to implement any reasonable mitigation measures to offset the harm caused by the beetle release program is especially troubling considering that USDA expressly committed itself to developing and implementing appropriate mitigation measures in the event that the beetles spread into flycatcher habitat, as now has occurred in a substantial manner.  The brief filed today can be found here.