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.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Brief Filed to Force Big Tobacco to Finally Tell the Truth about Cigarettes

As part of the United States’ long-running consumer fraud suit against Big Tobacco, the district court ruled that the companies must run television and newspaper advertisements stating that they "deliberately deceived the American public," and then stating the truth regarding the toxicity and addictiveness of cigarettes, as well as their manipulation of cigarette nicotine levels. The statements must also appear on cigarette pack onserts and the companies’ websites. 

The companies appealed to the D.C. Circuit, arguing that such "corrective statements" violate their First Amendment rights. We have just filed a brief defending the district court’s ruling, on behalf of six public health groups, including the American Cancer Society and Tobacco-Free Kids. Our brief explains that the statements are amply supported by the court’s massive factual findings, which show that for decades the companies emphatically denied that smoking is harmful or addictive, while they not only knew these statements were false, but also manipulated cigarettes to ensure they would be addictive – and marketed "light" and "low tar" cigarettes to satisfy demand for a healthier alternative while they knew that these cigarettes are just as addictive and deadly. Oral argument is scheduled for February, 2015. Our brief is here.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Lawsuit Filed Seeking Protection for Tiny Owl, Challenging New Policy Restricting Listing of Imperilled Species

On behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife we have filed a lawsuit in federal court in Arizona seeking to overturn the Fish and Wildlife Service’s refusal to list as endangered or threatened the Cactus-Ferruginous Pygmy Owl – an owl that is less than a foot long and is at grave risk of extinction from development and other impacts in the northern portion of its range in Arizona and northern Mexico. Although the Service concedes that the pygmy-owl faces myriad threats in the northern part of its range, and that this portion – called the Sonoran Desert Ecoregion – is important to the species’ conservation, the Service has refused to protect the owl under the Endangered Species Act based on a new Obama Administration policy that says, in effect, that a species must presently be at risk of extinction everywhere it exists in order for the species to gain any protection under the Act. This policy drastically reduces the number of species eligible for protection under the Act and also means that highly endangered populations in the United States will be allowed to go extinct simply because the species may be more abundant elsewhere, in direct contravention of a central objective of the ESA to safeguard wildlife for the benefit of the nation and its citizens. A copy of the Complaint is here and a press release on the lawsuit is here.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Brief Filed Asking Court To Dismiss Ranchers’ Suit Seeking Wild Horse Round-Ups

On behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), The Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, Utah photographer John Steele, and wild horse advocate Lisa Friday, we filed a motion asking the federal district court in Utah to dismiss a case brought by the Western Rangeland Conservation Association and Utah livestock owners against the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The ranchers seek to compel BLM to remove from both public and private lands in Utah hundreds of federally protected wild horses that compete with privately-owned livestock for water and forage on the range.  The livestock owners have “permits” that allow them to graze cattle and sheep on public lands, subsidized by the federal taxpayers. These grazing interests ask the court to order the removal of wild horses even though BLM has not determined that any “excess” wild horses exist in these areas. In its response to the ranchers’ suit, the government denies wild horses are damaging rangeland resources in these areas. A copy of the brief filed seeking dismissal can be found here.  

Friday, September 26, 2014

Lawsuit Filed Over California Energy Project That Threatens Regional Golden Eagle Population in Southern California

This week, we filed suit in federal court on behalf of the nonprofit Protect Our Communities Foundation and two backcountry landowners and naturalists seeking a court order that would require the Bureau of Indian Affairs to comply with the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act in connection with the agency’s authorization of a lease to build an industrial wind energy project on BIA-administered lands in Southern California. Among other concerns, the project’s siting design has been repeatedly criticized by federal and state wildlife agencies as presenting an extremely high risk to federally protected golden eagles – concerns that BIA has never addressed in any public process analyzing the project’s anticipated environmental impacts or siting/operational changes that could significantly reduce eagle mortality. A copy of the complaint can be found here, and press on the filing of the lawsuit can be found here: http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/wind/group-sues-over-wind-project-threat-to-eagles.html