Friday, May 1, 2015

USDA Publishes And Requests Public Comment On Rulemaking Petition For Better Standards To Protect Primates Used In Research

Today, the USDA published in the Federal Register for public comment a petition we filed last year on behalf of several clients, seeking stronger mandatory standards for the psychological well-being of primates used in research. The Petition, which can be found here, was filed on behalf of the New England Anti-Vivisection Society, the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, the Laboratory Primate Advocacy Group, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. It asked the USDA to adopt as standards under the Animal Welfare Act the recommendations recently accepted by the National Institute of Medicine for "ecologically appropriate environments" for chimpanzees used in federally-funded research, and to apply those standards to all non-human primates used in all research.  The AWA was amended in 1985 to require the USDA to issue "minimum standards" for a "physical environment adequate to promote the psychological well-being of primates."  Since then, the USDA has failed to promulgate effective standards requiring primates to be housed socially and to be provided basic environmental enrichment -- the agency’s own enforcement personnel have complained that the current standards are weak and unenforceable.  The Petition requests that the agency adopt new standards, based on scientific evidence and expertise from the world’s leading primate experts, that would require all research facilities to provide for the psychological well-being of primates by requiring them to be housed in social groups, and providing them various forms of additional environmental enhancement, including access to outdoors, and opportunities for choice and self-determination – all vital to primates’ psychological well-being.  The Petition has been given the Docket No. APHIS - 2014-0098-1, and the USDA will receive public comment until June 30, 2015.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Motion to Dismiss Granted in Wyoming Wild Horse Case

The Federal District Court of Wyoming granted our motion to dismiss a case brought by the State of Wyoming in an attempt to compel the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to remove wild horses from public lands across Wyoming. We moved to intervene in this case on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, the Cloud Foundation, Return to Freedom, and two individual wild horse photographers and advocates, Carol Walker and Kimerlee Curyl. In the order granting our motion to dismiss, as well as that of federal respondent BLM, the Court agreed with our argument that the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act affords BLM broad discretion in determining when removal of wild horses is necessary and that consideration of various factors is required to determine what actions should be taken to achieve a thriving natural ecological balance on the public rangelands. The decision can be found here. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Brief Filed In Challenge To Regulation Allowing Thirty Years Permits For Eagle Killing

On behalf of the American Bird Conservancy and five individuals who study and enjoy eagles, we have filed a summary judgment brief in our case challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s recent regulation increasing the maximum duration of permits to kill or otherwise “take” Bald and Golden Eagles from five to thirty years.  The regulation, which was adopted at the urging of the wind power industry, places eagle populations at grave risk but was issued without any compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act.  Our brief argues that the rule was adopted in flagrant violation of federal environmental law and that the poorly conceived rule should be vacated pending further study and public input.  

 

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.