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.