Monday, December 30, 2013

Appeal Filed Over Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Refusal To Consider Mitigation For Severe Nuclear Accidents

On behalf of NRDC, last week we filed a Petition for Review in the D.C. Circuit challenging the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) recent decision concerning Severe Accident Mitigation Alternatives (SAMAs) at the Limerick nuclear power plant outside Philadelphia.  Although NRC is preparing a NEPA Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) as part of the relicensing process for the power plant, and recognizes that SAMAs – which can reduce the severity of serious nuclear accidents – must be considered as part of that NEPA process, the agency recently ruled that NRDC may not challenge the adequacy of the SAMA analysis because the agency’s regulations foreclose such a challenge. The Petition seeks to overturn that ruling in order to force NRC to conduct a legally sufficient SAMA analysis during relicensing.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Queen Anne’s County Zoning Board of Appeals Denies Routine Violator’s Conditional Use Request For Mining Project

In a unanimous (3-0) decision this Wednesday, the Queen Anne’s County Zoning Board of Appeals denied a request by Merrick Farm LLC for conditional use approval to continue operating a major sand and gravel mine on its property in Ingleside, MD, which was shut down in September of this year for extensive County violations.  We represented several neighboring landowners and Queen Anne’s Conservation Association, a Maryland organization whose mission is to monitor impacts upon and to promote and protect the natural resources, rural character and small towns of Queen Anne’s County, Maryland.  The Board ruled that, in light of the company’s repeated violations and misstatements to County and State agencies and officials concerning its prior mining operations, its application failed to meet two of the three general use standards imposed by Queen Anne’s County Code § 18:1-94, and thus must be denied.

Massive Solar Projects Imperiling the Desert Tortoise

On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, we have sent the Bureau of Land Management and the Fish and Wildlife Service a letter detailing violations of the Endangered Species Act in connection with approval of two massive solar projects in the dwindling remaining habitat of the imperiled Desert Tortoise.  Although the FWS itself, along with other experts, have long recognized that Tortoises require several miles wide corridors to insure population and genetic stability, the FWS has issued a Biological Opinion (Bi-Op) that will allow construction of the two projects even though they will constrict these corridors – particularly the vitally important corridor between one of the projects and the Lucy Gray Mountains – to well below that width.  Adding insult to injury, the FWS also approved the solar companies’ plans to take the approximately 200 large Tortoises that live on the project sites and "translocate" them into the very corridor near the Lucy Gray Mountains that is going to be too narrow for the species’ long-term habitat needs.  The Bi-Op also makes wildly optimistic assumptions about the success of the translocation efforts, while at the same time ignoring the overall impacts to the Tortoise, and its recovery prospects, of the many habitat-destroying projects occurring in this area at this time. A copy of the Notice Letter is available here.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

State Department to Release Records On Keystone Pipeline Conflicts of Interest

On behalf of Friends of the Earth, in July we filed a FOIA suit against the State Department for refusing to release records concerning conflicts of interest associated with the Keystone XL Pipeline approval process (see our July post for details).  In a filing with the Court this week, the State Department agreed to begin releasing records on December 6, and to complete the record review process within 60 days. See

Monday, September 30, 2013

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

Today we filed suit 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 complaint can be found here, and here is a press release from our clients:

Friday, September 27, 2013

Rock Creek Park Deer Brief Filed in Appellate Court

This week we filed our opening brief in our appeal to save the Rock Creek Park deer. The appeal, filed in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of neighbors of Rock Creek Park and In Defense of Animals, demonstrates that the National Park Service lacks the authority to kill deer in the park this fall. Congress intended that Rock Creek Park be set aside to "preserv[e] from injury" all animals within the Park and that park managers retain animals "in their natural condition, as nearly as possible." The Park Service has consistently construed this language as prohibiting the killing of any native wildlife in this Park, and this will be the first time in 123-year history of the park that the Park Service has allowed the harming of any wildlife. We also show that the Park Service does not even have the data it said it needed to determine that the deer, rather than exotic plants, are interfering with forest regeneration in the park, and that the Park Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to take into account the issue of exotic plant species, as well as the fact that killing the wildlife in the park will ruin the ability of many to enjoy this very special place.

The appeals brief comes on the heels of a Petition to the Park Service – brought by neighbors, the Washington Humane Society, and In Defense of Animals – demonstrating that the Park Service’s own data undercut its arguments for killing the deer. The Petition presents a new analysis from a renowned Yale professor that shows that deer are having no significant adverse impact on forest regeneration or the spread of invasive exotic plants.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Conservation Groups Allege ESA Violations Concerning Large Development Project in Palm Beach County, Florida

Yesterday, on behalf of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition; Sierra Club Florida, led by its Loxahatchee Group; South Florida Wildlands Association; and the Green Party of Palm Beach County, we submitted a formal notice of violations of the Endangered Species Act in connection with the Scripps Briger Phase II Project slated for construction in Palm Beach County, Florida.  The 700-acre parcel selected for project construction and operation is one of the last remaining forested tracts of land in heavily developed Palm Beach County, and thus serves as a critical refuge for many wildlife species including the federally threatened Eastern indigo snake.  In reviewing the impacts to the snake and its habitat, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took a glass-half-empty approach by viewing this parcel as degraded habitat due to the highly developed character of the parcels surrounding it – rather than the glass-half-full approach of viewing this as a vital refuge for wildlife pushed off of other parcels by rapid development – and, in turn, authorized heavy development of this parcel without consideration of any measures to ensure that the development and Eastern indigo snakes can co-exist on this parcel, or at minimum any measures to avoid the death of all snakes currently using the parcel.  The formal notice can be found here.

Monday, August 26, 2013

149 Horses Saved From Slaughter

As a result of the temporary restraining order issued on our clients’ behalf on Friday, August 16 (see post below), 149 unbranded horses were pulled from the Fallon Auction in Nevada slated to begin on Saturday morning August 17, 2013.  Although our clients lost their bid to have these horses returned to the wild, we are happy to report that all 149 have now been placed with rescue groups in the West where they will live out their lives free from the threat of helicopter roundups and trips to slaughter houses.  Hats off to our fantastic clients the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, Return to Freedom, the Cloud Foundation, the Western Watersheds Project, and Laura Leigh for saving the lives of these horses under extraordinary circumstances!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Court Enjoins Sale Of Wild Horses At Auction In Nevada

In a ruling issued last night U.S. District Judge Miranda Du of the District Court in Nevada granted our request for a temporary restraining order to stop the sale of wild horses at a private auction being held this morning in Fallon Nevada.  Approximately 417 horses were rounded up last week by the Paiute and Shoshone Tribe pursuant to an Agreement with the Forest Service that allowed the Tribe to remove their own horses as well as any "unbranded / unknown ownership / unclaimed horses” from both tribal and Forest Service lands and take them to the auction for sale.  The Forest Service has acknowledged that some of the buyers will likely be sending horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico and Canada.  We filed a case on Thursday, August 15, 2013 challenging the Forest Service's failure to take precautions to ensure that rounded up horses did not include wild horses protected under the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burros Act, and a motion for a temporary restraining order yesterday morning to ensure that none of the unbranded horses collected by the Tribe would be sold until it could be determined whether they are wild or domesticated.  In granting the motion last night, Judge Du ruled that "Plaintiffs have demonstrated an immediate threat of irreparable harm if the status quo is not maintained, that is, the sale of wild horses and their possible slaughter," and that "the public interest is served when the Court maintains the status quo to ensure wild horses are not improperly removed and auctioned for sale to be potentially slaughtered because of an agency's action."   The Judge has set a further hearing on the matter for August 21.  

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Federal Court Upholds Protections For Endangered Antelopes

In a victory for animal protection and conservation groups and a blow to trophy hunting interest groups, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday upheld a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rule listing the Scimitar-Horned Oryx, the Addax, and the Dama Gazelle as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act.  Several organizations who advocate for trophy hunting and the ranches that supply animals for that purpose unsuccessfully challenged the agency’s listing decision in an attempt to eliminate federal and public oversight of these antelope species in U.S. canned hunting facilities where shooters pay top dollar to kill captive animals for trophies.  We intervened in the case on behalf of the Humane Society of the United States, Born Free USA, and Defenders of Wildlife, following another court victory that we obtained on behalf of the same coalition in 2009 in which the court struck down the Service’s attempt to exempt the antelope species from the ESA’s safeguards by issuing blanket permits for captive antelopes without subjecting them to public scrutiny.  The court’s opinion can be found here

Monday, August 5, 2013

Petitions Sent to National Park Service To End Killing Of Wildlife In Rock Creek Park

Today we submitted two Petitions to the National Park Service on behalf of In Defense of Animals, the Washington Humane Society, and several local D.C. residents to halt any further killing of white-tailed deer in Rock Creek Park in our nation’s Capital.  The first Petition presents a new scientific analysis by Yale University forest ecologist Dr. Oswald Schmitz demonstrating that the data relied on by the Park Service as a basis for killing the deer last Spring do not demonstrate  that deer are having any adverse impact on forest regeneration in the Park.  The Petition also demonstrates that the real threat to the Park’s native vegetation is the increase in invasive exotic plant species that are migrating into the Park from neighboring landscaping and destroying the native vegetation, causing the native deer to leave the Park in search of food.  A copy of the Petition can be found here

The second Petition is a petition signed by over 11,000 individuals who have asked the Park Service to stop killing the deer because this “will forever change the character of this very special national park in the midst of our nation’s Capital from a haven of peace and tranquility to just one more place of violence.”  A live copy of that Petition can be found here.

The Petitioners are requesting the Park Service to halt all further killing of the deer, especially when, under the sequester, the agency has been forced to eliminate or cut back much more justifiable and essential conservation programs throughout the country and even impose a hiring freeze.

Here are the additional exhibits:

Exhibit B        Jonathan Jarvis sequester testimony
Exhibit C        Environmental Impact Statement - Excerpts
Exhibit D        Final Internal Scoping Report for Deer Management in Rock
                        Creek Park
Exhibit E         2011 Krafft & Hatfield Study
Exhibit F         Declaration and Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Oswald Schmitz
Exhibit G        2010 Rutherford & Schmitz Study
Exhibit H        2005 General Management Plan
Exhibit I          2000 Resource Management Plan
Exhibit J         2004 Draft Invasive Exotic Management Plan
Exhibit K        2012 Hurley et al. Study
Exhibit L         1998 Stout Study
Exhibit M       1996 Management Plan
Exhibit N        Evaluation of Deer Management Options
Exhibit O        2001 National Invasive Species Council Management Plan
Exhibit P         Summary of Techniques to Control Exotic Invasive Plants
Exhibit Q        2004 Huston Study
Exhibit R        1996 Visitor Use Study
Exhibit S         Public Comments on Rock Creek Park Deer Management
Exhibit T         2013 Rutberg et al. Study
Exhibit U        Declaration and Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Jay Kirkpatrick
Exhibit V        Declaration and Curriculum Vitae of Dr. Allen Rutberg
Exhibit W       Wild News: 2013 Update on Nonlethal Sterilization
Exhibit X        Record of Decision, May 2012
Exhibit Y        Minutes of Science Team, March 2006
Exhibit Z         Fertility Proposal from The Humane Society of the United



Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The company that had planned to build the ecologically destructive Calico solar project in the Mojave Desert has relinquished its right of way from the Bureau of Land Management and announced its decision not to proceed with the project. Last year, on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club, we sued in federal court in California over BLM’s authorization to construct the project on federal lands. We contended that the project would be highly detrimental to the federally threatened desert tortoise as well as to federally protected golden eagles. Following the filing of our case, BLM and the Fish and Wildlife Service announced that they were conducting further reviews under the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act, and that any work on the project would be suspended in the meantime. In light of the company’s recent decision to abandon the harmful project, we have voluntarily dismissed our lawsuit.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Friends Of The Earth Seeks Records On Keystone XL Pipeline Conflicts Of Interest

On behalf of Friends of the Earth (FoE), we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today against the State Department for refusing to release records concerning conflicts of interest associated with the Keystone XL Pipeline approval process.  FoE has previously shown inappropriate ties between contractors working for State and TransCanada, the company that wants to build the pipeline.  FoE has also documented the close ties between lobbyists for TransCanada and high-ranking State department officials.  Although FoE submitted the most recent FOIA request months ago and sought expedited review, to date State has not released any records.  The suit seeks release of all records concerning these conflicts on an expedited basis. 


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Lawsuit Filed On Eve Of Fourth Of July To Protect Bald Eagles

We filed a lawsuit today under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act on behalf of a grassroots group in Norfolk Virginia – Eagle On Alliance (EOA) – to stop the federal government from destroying the nests of the only nesting pair of bald eagles available for public viewing in Norfolk.  The eagles – a symbol of our country -- have lived for years at the Norfolk Botanical Garden.  Although the Fish and Wildlife Service issued the permits last fall for the stated purpose of protecting the public from an “eagle-strike” at the adjacent Norfolk International Airport, internal records obtained by EOA under the open records laws showed that the biologists consulted by the agency agreed that it was “unlikely” destruction of the eagles’ nests “would be successful” in keeping these or other eagles out of the area which contains extremely rich habitat for eagles and other birds, including Lake Whitehurst which is also next to the Airport.  In fact, although the City of Norfolk, with the help of USDA’s “Wildlife Services,” destroyed seven nests between October 2012 and March 2013 – each time waiting until nest construction was almost completed -- the Norfolk Eagle pair shows no signs of leaving the area.  Internal Records also show that although the Airport Authority recently spent millions of dollars renovating the Airport lobby, by constructing a massive skylight, marble-wrapped columns, and new terrazzo flooring,  it has failed to take basic steps taken by other Airports around the country to detect and deter birds from using the runways and surrounding areas.   However, the Eagle Protection Act requires that permits to take eagles or their nests must be “necessary” to protect the public from a safety hazard, and the FWS’s own regulations stress that such permits cannot be issued unless there is “no practicable alternative to nest removal that would protect the interest to be served.”   EOA seeks to halt further destruction of the eagles’ nests so that the Norfolk Eagles will have a chance for a successful breeding season.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

D.C. Circuit Upholds Ban On Polar Bear “Trophy” Imports

In two recent rulings, the D.C. Circuit upheld the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) determination that polar bear “trophies” – i.e., the body parts of polar bears killed in Canada – may no longer be imported into the United States now that the species has been listed under the Endangered Species Act.  In a suit by Safari Club, the Court rejected the argument that a provision of the Marine Mammal Protection Act that had authorized these imports prior to the species’ listing somehow trumps the Act’s protections for listed species such as the polar bear.  In another suit by Conservation Force, the Court issued an unpublished decision affirming the district court’s ruling that killing and importing polar bears does not enhance the survival of the species, as the plaintiffs had argued.  We intervened in these suits on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Humane Society of the United States, in order to defend the FWS’s determinations.  The Court’s rulings are here and here.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

MGC Is Instrumental In Convincing Fish and Wildlife Service To Propose Upgrading Captive Chimpanzees To “Endangered” Under The Endangered Species Act

In what could be the culmination of a long effort by our firm to help eliminate the dual listing for chimpanzees under the Endangered Species Act, by which chimpanzees in the wild are considered “endangered,” but chimpanzees in captivity receive no protections under the statute, today the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a proposed rule to upgrade the listing of captive chimpanzees to “endangered” as well.  The announcement came in response to a petition filed by the firm on behalf of a coalition of animal protection and conservation groups (HSUS and Humane Society International, the National Anti-Vivisection Society, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance), the Jane Goodall Institute, and the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums.   The firm has been working on this issue since the mid-1990s.  The FWS has finally recognized that there is no legal basis under the ESA for distinguishing between the captive members of a species and the wild members – if finalized, the new rule will mean that anyone wishing to “take” a chimpanzee in this country – including kill, harm, harass, wound, or injure in  any way – will have to apply for a special permit to do so under the ESA and demonstrate that such activities are needed to “enhance the propagation or survival” of the species in the wild.  For years, because of the dual listing scheme – which denied captive chimpanzees the basic protections of the ESA – chimpanzees have been widely exploited in commercials, the entertainment industry and the biomedical research industry.  Finalizing the proposed rule should help put an end to such practices.   The proposed rule can be found here

Monday, June 3, 2013

End to Destruction of Eagles Nests At Norfolk Botanical Garden Urged

On behalf of Eagle on Alliance (EOA) – a grass-roots group in Virginia – the firm today sent a letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) requesting it to stop allowing the City of Norfolk to destroy the nests of eagles that have lived at the Garden since 2003 and that millions of people have delighted in following over “Eagle Cam” until the site was shut down when nest destruction began last fall.   The FWS decided to authorize the destruction of the nests from October, 2012 – March, 2013 in an effort to make the eagles leave the area which is adjacent to the Norfolk International Airport, and since then the City (with the assistance of the USDA “Wildlife Services” division) has destroyed seven different nests, each time waiting until the nest is almost completed before tearing it down – all at taxpayer expense.  Although under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act the FWS is only authorized to allow the destruction of eagles nests when “necessary” to protect public safety, internal minutes of a meeting held by the FWS, the Airport, and the City of Norfolk before the FWS issued the permit reveal that the consensus of the agency biologists was that it was “unlikely” that removal of these nests “would be successful in preventing future nesting in close proximity to the airport,” and that, consequently “removal of the nest will not address the concern of aviation and eagle hazards.”   In addition, although the agency’s implementing regulations require the FWS to also determine that “there is no practicable alternative to nest removal that would protect the interest to be served,” the Airport has yet to implement several obvious measures that to reduce the risk of “bird strikes” there.  For example, although other Airports immediately adjacent to wildlife areas – such as JFK and the Philadelphia Airport – employ full-time wildlife biologists to detect and disperse birds from the runways, and to alert airmen when birds are present, internal documents recently obtained by EOA under the open records laws show that the Norfolk Airport borrows a federal employee for this purpose for only 60 hours each month, despite the fact that, according to its own financial records, the Airport has over $150,000,000 in “total net assets,” and recently announced that it is spending $11 million to renovate the lobby, including “the installation of  a large skylight in the lobby area [and] the installation of a new terrazzo flooring.”   Asserting that the FWS simply cannot meet the necessary requirements for authorizing the destruction of the eagles’ nests, EOA has asked the agency to terminate the exiting permit and to refrain from issuing any additional permits to the City for next year.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Preliminary Injunction Filed To Prevent Harm To Cliff Swallows Until Highway Agencies Comply With Federal Law

Earlier this week, along with co-counsel from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we filed a preliminary injunction before Judge Jon Tigar of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to halt bridge construction affecting a sizeable colony of Cliff Swallows, until and unless the agencies comply with their duties under the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”) and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (“MBTA”).  The agencies have never in any NEPA review subject to public participation considered or analyzed the impacts of exclusionary netting and other activities on this swallow colony, which has already resulted in many dozens of killed, injured, and captured swallows and other migratory birds, nor have the agencies obtained authorization for their harmful activities under the MBTA.  The preliminary injunction motion and memorandum can be found here.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Lawsuit Filed To Protect Cliff Swallows And Other Birds From Death And Injury In California

On Friday, along with lawyers from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, we filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking to protect Cliff Swallows that nest on two bridges from continued death, injury, and entanglement due to exclusionary netting placed on the bridges by the California Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration as part of their Highway 101 widening project in the Marin-Sonoma Narrows.  Over the past two months, more than one hundred Swallows have been killed or injured as a result of the netting, and other birds have also been killed, but the agencies have not obtained authorization for those actions under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The agencies also never analyzed the impacts of this project or the exclusionary netting on Cliff Swallows in general or the Cliff Swallows that nest on these two bridges in particular, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act.  The complaint can be found here, and the press release here.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New Lawsuit Filed To Curtail ORV Use To Protect Fragile Resources Of Big Cypress National Preserve

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

Notice of Appeal Filed in Case To Protect Rock Creek Park Deer

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

DC Circuit Dismisses API Challenge To Transparency Rules

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

Orca Whale Named Lolita Closer To Being Protected Under The Endangered Species Act

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

Efforts to Protect Bald Eagles at the Norfolk City Botanical Gardens

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

Katherine Meyer and Eric Glitzenstein Receive Kerry Rydberg Award

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

Effort to Save Southwestern Willow Flycatcher Launched

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.          

Friday, March 1, 2013

Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal celebrate their twentieth anniversary

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal.  Founded by Katherine Meyer and Eric Glitzenstein on March 1, 1993, the Firm has since been an unwavering voice for animals, the environment, and public interest advocacy.  Part of the team since the beginning, Director of Operations Leslie Mink has helped grow the Firm into a practice that has been recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as “the most effective public-interest law firm in Washington.”
In 1996, the firm was joined by Howard Crystal, who became a name partner in 2005. Over the years, many talented and dedicated lawyers have been part of the firm – and many of our former attorneys have gone on to impressive careers in public interest law and other forms of public service.  Last year, attorney Bill Eubanks was named partner in the Firm.
Among the highlights of the Firm’s accomplishments over the past twenty years are:

-  victories for animals, successfully challenged federal regulations allowing “canned hunting,” ending the burning of endangered sea turtles in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, stopping the infamous Hegins pigeon shoot, eliminating grizzly bear hunting in Montana, and establishing a legal framework for Article III standing for individuals harmed by the treatment of captive wildlife;

bringing many cases to protect endangered species and preserve biodiversity, including cases leading to the creation of new sanctuaries and refuges for the Florida manatee, protection of the North Atlantic right whale from ship strikes, and the listing of hundreds of animals and plants as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act;

- protecting wild places by winning cases curbing off-road vehicles, jetskis, and snowmobile use in national parks;

- protecting public health and safety by achieving intervention for public health organizations in the U.S. Department of Justice’s massive case against the tobacco industry, and obtaining improved restoration of Department of Energy nuclear waste sites; and

ensuring access to government records and other agency proceedings through the Freedom of Information Act, Federal Advisory Committee Act, and other open government statutes.
Other current members of the Firm, Amanda Barker and Jessica Almy, congratulate the Firm’s founders and partners on this milestone and wish them great success as they continue to trailblaze on behalf of animals, the environment, and the people who care about them over the coming years.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Court Upholds Ability to Challenge Renewal of USDA License Under the Animal Welfare Act

A U.S. District Court Judge in North Carolina today rejected the government’s motion to dismiss a case we are doing with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in which PETA and others are challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to renew the Animal Welfare Act license of a road-side zoo amid extensive evidence that the facility habitually violates the AWA and was in violation of several AWA standards when the USDA renewed the license.  The case is particularly important because the AWA does not have a private right of action.  The Judge agreed with us that the agency’s decision may be brought under the Administrative Procedure Act and was not the same as the exercise of prosecutorial discretion which cannot be challenged in court. The decision can be read here

Friday, January 18, 2013


On behalf of Oxfam America, and working with Earth Rights International, we filed a brief this week defending the new SEC regulation requiring that publicly traded companies disclose payments they make to governments associated with extracting oil, natural gas, and minerals.  The regulation will provide vital information to investors while at the same time allowing people in communities where these natural resources are found, and their international allies, to hold governments accountable for natural resource revenues.  Our brief, which is here, explains why the D.C. Circuit should reject Petitioners arguments that the regulation violates several statutes and the First Amendment.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

Plaintiffs File Court Papers to Save the Rock Creek Park Deer

On Friday, we filed our opening brief on behalf of In Defense of Animals and five individuals, arguing that the National Park Service’s plan to kill native white-tailed deer in Rock Creek Park violates the National Environmental Policy Act and the statute that created the Park.

An urban oasis in the nation’s capital, Rock Creek Park has never before allowed any wildlife to be killed within the Park. The National Park Service had planned to kill half of the deer this winter but halted its plans after we filed suit in October.
The Park Service’s own data show that there are is no overpopulation of deer – there are only about 300 deer in the entire Park, they are in good biological condition and are certainly not starving. In other places with too many deer, there is a “browse line” where the deer have eaten all the foliage they can reach, leaving abundant leaves on bushes and trees too tall for the deer to reach with bare branches below. But the Park Service acknowledges that there is “no visible browse line” in Rock Creek Park.

Plaintiffs believe that even if there were a deer overpopulation problem – which simply does not exist – there are far more humane ways to deal with this problem, such as using fertility control which has been successfully used in other national parks to control wildlife populations.
But instead of using humane reproductive controls that would protect the wildlife and the serenity of the Park, the National Park Service decided to use taxpayer dollars to kill the deer by luring them with apples and carrots to clearings where they will be shot at close range or killed by barbaric means, such as bleeding to death.  As explained in our brief, this approach violates both the statute that created the Park in 1890, which requires that the animal life there be preserved as much as possible, and the National Environmental Policy Act, because the Park Service failed to take into account important environmental impacts that will result from killing the deer, including completely changing the overall character of this peaceful place of tranquility to a nightly killing field.
Resolution of the lawsuit is necessary to stop the killing of the deer for good. The judge is holding a hearing on March 4, 2013.
To learn more, check out this podcast, then join us on Facebook and Twitter to save the Rock Creek Park deer.