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:

Monday, September 22, 2014

NPS Settles Suit and Curbs ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve

Today, we entered into a settlement agreement with the National Park Service (“NPS”) on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, and South Florida Wildlands Association, in which NPS agreed to close all secondary off-road vehicle (“ORV”) trails in the Turner River Unit and the Corn Dance Unit of Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve.  The coalition of conservation organizations brought suit in 2013 after NPS opened more than 100 miles of secondary trails without conducting any analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, the NPS Organic Act, the Endangered Species Act, or other federal environmental laws.  After the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida ruled that NPS could not avoid judicial review of its legal violations merely by starting a belated environmental review process while ORV use continued to destroy the Preserve’s sensitive natural resources, NPS agreed to settle the lawsuit without further court intervention by closing the unlawfully opened trails.  A press release on the settlement can be found here:  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Journal Article Details Big Tobacco’s Ongoing Document Disclosure Obligations

Tobacco Control, an international peer-reviewed journal, has recently published an article co-authored by Howard Crystal detailing Big Tobacco’s ongoing document disclosure obligations stemming from a 2006 ruling on the companies’ massive consumer fraud concerning the health effects and addictiveness of cigarettes. We represent a coalition of public health groups – including Tobacco-Free Kids and American Cancer Society – who have vigorously pursued strong remedies as Intervenors in that lawsuit, including ongoing and accessible disclosures of internal tobacco company documents. As detailed in the article – titled Transparency as a remedy against racketeering: preventing and restraining fraud by exposing Big Tobacco’s dirty secrets – under a 2011 Order the companies will publicly disclose documents produced in smoking and health litigation until 2021, and those materials will be readily accessible through enhanced website search tools funded by the companies, as well as at a document depository in Minnesota. 
The full article is available here: ttp://

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, we filed a brief in the D.C. Circuit this week seeking to overturn the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) ruling that residents living near nuclear power plants have no right to participate in relicensing decisions, even where they possess significant new information. In the specific decision at issue, the NRC is considering whether to renew the license for the Limerick nuclear plant near Philadelphia.  NRDC and its members sought to present evidence showing how Limerick could cost-effectively reduce the severity of a catastrophic nuclear accident, but the NRC refused to let them participate.  We are asking the Court to reverse the NRC and rule that the agency must provide a hearing on these issues. Our brief is here.


On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), we recently filed a brief before the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board (ASLB) seeking a favorable resolution of NRDC’s challenge to a massive uranium mining operation proposed for Crook County, Wyoming.  Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) prepared an Environmental Impact Statement on the mining project, the agency has refused to establish baseline water quality levels, or to evaluate the extent to which the project is likely to degrade water quality, on the ground that these issues can be considered after the mining license is issued.  Because this approach violates the National Environmental Policy Act, our motion seeks to force the agency to consider these vital matters before mining operations commence.  Our brief is here.


Now that the district court has approved the implementation plan for the "corrective statements" remedy in the long running consumer fraud suit against the major tobacco companies, R.J. Reynolds (RJR) is seeking to dilute that remedy, arguing that it should not be required to run a television advertisement in its capacity as the successor to Brown and Williamson (B&W) – one of the original defendants in the suit.  The Court ordered that "each defendant" run a television ad telling the truth about cigarettes once per week for a year, but RJR asserts that because it merged with B&W pre-judgment, the ruling does not apply to that company.  Our brief, on behalf of the Public Health Intervenors (six major public health groups, including Tobacco-Free Kids and American Cancer Society) explains RJR’s argument is untimely because it should have been raised in the original appeal in 2008, and that in any event the Court was well within its authority in directing RJR to run two television ads, given that it now markets and sells both its own cigarette brands, such as Camel, and those formerly sold by B&W, such as Kool and Pall Mall.  Our brief is here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

MGC Honored by Madrone Audubon Society

The Madrone Audubon Society, based in Santa Rosa, California, has given Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal, along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, an award for “Special Recognition” in connection with the firm’s work on  a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration and the California Department of Transportation regarding expansion of a bridge that is home to an important Cliff swallow colony.  As explained by Madrone Audubon in issuing the award, the federal case resulted in a settlement agreement that “achieved new standards of exclusion and protection for migratory birds, requirement for close monitoring during construction, and funding for the public and educational outreach.”  Madrone Audubon also said that it is “deeply grateful for the skilled legal teams for guiding us through a challenging process to an outcome with the potential for new exclusionary methods during bridge construction in California which will afford higher levels of protection for migratory birds.”

Lawsuit Filed Over Eagle Killing Rule

On behalf of the American Bird Conservancy and various individuals dedicated to eagle conservation, we have filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging a recent Fish and Wildlife Service regulation greatly expanding the duration of permits to kill or otherwise “take” golden and bald eagles.  The complaint contends that the regulation – which allows companies to obtain permits to kill and injure eagles for up to thirty years, and was issued at the urging of the wind power industry --  was adopted in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.  A copy of the complaint is here.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Notice Of Violations Of Law Regarding Removal And Death Of Young Egrets Nesting At the San Antonio Zoo

Today, on behalf of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, we sent a letter to the Director of the San Antonio Zoo and Fish and Wildlife Service officials concerning recent news reports that the FWS has authorized the removal of hundreds of young egrets that have been nesting at the San Antonio Zoo, and requesting that the agency cease authorizing the removal of any more of these birds.  A copy of the Letter can be found here.  The actions in removing the egrets – which has occurred without any public notice and comment and in apparent violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and National Historic Preservation Act – has already resulted in the death of some of the young egrets who were captured, placed in boxes and transported to the San Antonio Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (WRR).  The WRR has been overwhelmed with the very young and fragile birds, who require round-the-clock care and feeding.  The Zoo was apparently given a “depredation” permit by the FWS to remove the birds after complaining about bird droppings from the egret rookery that has been established in trees above one of the Zoo’s exhibits.  Although the Zoo claims that the wildlife is causing a health hazard at the Zoo, there are several alternative measures that could be used to deal with the issue without resorting to wholesale destruction of the rookery and the deaths of young birds.   As we stated in our letter, “It is indeed extremely incongruous that a facility dedicated to the ‘conservation’ of wildlife has resorted to actions that are killing baby egrets protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as a means of addressing a sanitation issue . . . Young children should be taught by example that there are more ethically responsible and humane ways of dealing with a sanitation problem than rounding up, removing, and causing the death of innocent wildlife.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Court Approves Agreement For “Corrective Statements” About Cigarette Company Fraud; Intervenors Urge Court To Include Corrective Statements In Retailer Displays

Earlier this week, Judge Gladys Kessler of the U.S. district court in D.C. approved a comprehensive agreement under which the largest cigarette companies will be required to publish Corrective Statements on five topics in major newspapers and TV networks, and on their own websites and cigarette packs.  Implementation of the agreement, which our Firm helped negotiate on behalf of six public health group intervenors - including Tobacco-Free Kids, American Cancer Society, and American Lung Association - will carry out Judge Kessler’s landmark 2006 ruling finding the companies responsible for massive consumer fraud concerning the adverse health impacts and addictiveness of cigarettes.  The Statements will explain that the companies “deliberately deceived the American public,” and will provide accurate information about their deadly products.  The Statements will run once Defendants’ pending appeal over the precise wording of the Statements is resolved.

Yesterday, we filed a brief urging that the Court also require the Corrective Statements to appear in displays at certain retailers where cigarettes are sold, and where the companies engage in massive marketing.  We explain that this additional venue is critical to insure adequate reach of the Statements, particularly to youth and disadvantaged communities, and that, contrary to the arguments of certain retailers, putting the Statements in their stores will not impact their rights or their bottom line.  Judge Kessler’s recent Order is here.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Court Rules That Conservationists’ Suit Against Environmentally Destructive ORV Use May Proceed

Last week, a federal judge in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida rejected the National Park Service’s attempt to dismiss or indefinitely delay litigation seeking to close dozens of miles of off-road vehicle (“ORV”) trails in Florida’s Big Cypress National Preserve that cause significant damage to sensitive wildlife species including the endangered Florida panther, as well as soil, water, vegetation, and other natural resources.  Although the Park Service has belatedly initiated an environmental review process to attempt to cure these serious legal violations after the fact, the court said that the agency’s tardy (and completely voluntary) environmental review could not serve as the basis for depriving the plaintiffs of their day in court.  We represent the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, South Florida Wildlands Association, and several individuals in this suit.  A press release about the ruling can be found here.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

USDA Decides To Publish Primate Petition For Public Comment

In response to a petition we filed on May 7, 2014 asking the USDA to promulgate better standards for the psychological well-being of primates used in research (see May 7, 2014 blog entry), the USDA has responded that “the issues raised in the petition are important,” and hence that the agency will publish the petition in the Federal Register “in the near future to solicit public comment.”  A copy of the letter can be found here. The Petition was filed on May 7, 2014 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.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


MGC has entered into a settlement agreement with Feld Entertainment, Inc. in order to bring to a close longstanding litigation stemming from an Endangered Species Act lawsuit brought by MGC on behalf of various animal protection organizations concerning FEI’s elephant treatment practices.  To view MGC’s statement concerning the settlement, click here.  For more information concerning the underlying ESA lawsuit, read Katherine Meyer’s declaration by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Groups Ask USDA For Better Standards To Protect Primates Used In Research

Today, on behalf of several animal protection groups, we filed a petition with the United States Department of Agriculture asking it to adopt better 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 asks the USDA to adopt as standards under the Animal Welfare Act for all primates used in research the recommendations recently accepted by the National Institute of Medicine for “ecologically appropriate environments” for chimpanzees used in federally-funded 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 the new NIH recommendations, which are based on scientific evidence and expertise from the world’s leading primate experts, and would require all research facilities to provide for the psychological well-being of primates through standards that require social housing, environmental enhancement, access to outdoors,  and opportunities for choice and self-determination – all vital to non-human primates’ psychological well-being.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Major Public Lands Case Filed Challenging Forest Service’s Exclusion of Roadless Protections Near Ski Resorts

Last week, on behalf of the nonprofit conservation organization The Ark Initiative and several individuals, we filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia challenging the Forest Service’s recent attempts to exclude public lands in Colorado from roadless protections that those lands have long been afforded by the agency.  In stark contrast with the Forest Service’s longstanding roadless management regime that implements the agency’s duties under the Wilderness Act and other laws, in the Forest Service’s 2012 Colorado Roadless Rule and subsequent site-specific decisions implementing the regulation the agency has purported to rely on economic, commercial, and social factors for excluding long-recognized roadless areas from the nation’s roadless inventory rather than basing such determinations on the factual condition of the parcel under review (i.e., whether the parcel is unroaded and otherwise consists of specified roadless qualities enumerated in the agency’s land management handbook).  These public lands – which are highly desired by the ski resort industry for future recreational development that is inconsistent with roadless management values and standards – were all protected as part of the Forest Service’s roadless inventory prior to the 2012 rule.  The plaintiffs have requested that the court vacate both the regulation’s arbitrary and capricious exclusion of these public lands from the roadless inventory as well as the site-specific decisions relying on and implementing the rule’s unlawful roadless inventory exclusion.  The complaint can be found here.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Court Allows Wild Horse Advocates to Intervene in Lawsuit to Protect Wild Horses From Livestock Owners Who Want Them Removed from the Range In Nevada

Yesterday, the United States District Court for the District of Nevada granted our motion to intervene, filed on behalf of the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign (AWHPC), Terri Farley, and Mark Terrell, as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Nevada Farm Bureau Federation (NFBF) against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The lawsuit is a wholesale attack on the way BLM manages wild horses on public lands throughout Nevada, and seeks to have the horses removed from the range because they are competing for water and forage with private livestock that is permitted to graze on the same lands at taxpayer expense. NACO and NFBF also want the court to require BLM to terminate long-term warehousing of wild horses and immediately “dispose” of almost 50,000 wild horses currently in these facilities. Our clients sought intervention to ensure that the interests of wild horses and burros are protected and to prevent BLM from entering into any “sweetheart” deals in an effort to appease the interests of the livestock industry.  The Judge’s Order granted our clients Intervention of Right to protect their important aesthetic, educational, and economic interests.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Emergency Motion Filed to Protect the Desert Tortoise

On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, we filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in Los Angeles on Wednesday to prevent work from starting on two massive solar facilities on public lands in the Mojave desert habitat of the imperiled Desert Tortoise. Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that these facilities will impair the last remaining effective Tortoise habitat corridor in the Ivanpah Valley, the federal government has approved the projects, and absent a Court Order the solar company will begin work on the sites, which will include “translocating” adult Tortoises, and crushing and killing smaller Tortoises, hatchlings and eggs.  We have requested a hearing by March 31, 2014, and in exchange the solar company has agreed not to begin work until April 3. Our motion is here.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Suit Filed To Protect The Threatened Desert Tortoise

On behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, we filed a lawsuit in the Central District of California today against the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), over their recent approvals of two massive solar facilities to be built in the dwindling remaining Ivanpah Valley habitat of the imperiled Desert Tortoise – the Silver State South Solar Project near Primm, Nevada, and Stateline Solar Farm Project in San Bernardino, California.  Although the FWS had earlier rejected one of these projects because it will destroy the last functioning habitat linkage for the Tortoise in the Valley, both that agency and the BLM inexplicably signed-off on both projects, ignoring the devastating impacts they will have on the species.  These impacts include destroying over 4,000 acres of Tortoise habitat and severing habitat linkages; killing hundreds of Tortoises during operation and construction of the facilities, including inevitably failed efforts to “translocate” tortoises from the project areas; and further impairing one of the last refuges for a species that already faces a bleak future, given the increasing temperatures and decreasing precipitation anticipated in their habitat in coming years.  The lawsuit requests that the Court set aside the agencies’ approvals of the two projects until BLM and FWS meaningfully analyze the impacts the facilities will have on the Tortoise, which has not been done to date.  A copy of the Complaint is here.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Air National Guard Halts Wind Turbine Project in Sensitive Migratory Bird Flyway In Response to MGC Letter

Yesterday, the Air National Guard announced that in response to a letter our firm sent on January 7th on behalf of two leading bird protection organizations – the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory – the Air National Guard has indefinitely withdrawn its decision to construct and operate a wind turbine near Lake Erie in a critically sensitive migratory flyway for bald eagles and more than 300 bird species.  Our letter constituted a formal notice of intent to sue to the Air National Guard for violations of the Endangered Species Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and National Environmental Policy Act, particularly in light of Air National Guard’s refusal to adopt the expert recommendations of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Division of Natural Resources to avoid siting any wind turbines in this critically sensitive location for, or to at least minimize impacts to, federally endangered Kirtland’s warblers and piping plovers, bald eagles, and many other bird species that migrate through the project’s air space.  Additional media on this victory can be found here:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Settlement Reached to Protect Cliff Swallows in California

On behalf of various conservation organizations, we reached a settlement with the California Department of Transportation ("Caltrans") concerning that agency’s construction activities at two bridges where a large colony of cliff swallows have nested after completing their six-thousand mile sojourn from South America. Last year, loose netting placed at the bridges trapped and killed large numbers of swallows and other migratory birds in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In response to subsequent litigation we filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Caltrans has now agreed, among other items, to remove all exclusionary netting from the bridges; wherever feasible, to use hard surface exclusionary materials to prevent birds from nesting on areas under construction; and to demolish the existing bridges outside the swallow nesting season. A copy of the press release announcing the settlement is here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Air National Guard Put on Notice of Legal Violations for Siting Wind Energy Turbine in High-Risk Location for Eagles and Migratory Birds

Yesterday, on behalf of two leading bird protection organizations – the American Bird Conservancy and the Black Swamp Bird Observatory -- we sent a formal notice of intent to sue to the Air National Guard at Camp Perry in Ohio for rampant violations of the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and National Environmental Policy Act.  Despite repeated requests from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Ohio Division of Natural Resources to avoid siting any wind turbines in this critically sensitive location for federally endangered Kirtland’s warblers and piping plovers, bald eagles, and more than three hundred species of migratory birds, the Air National Guard disregarded the advice and recommendations of the expert wildlife agencies.  Instead, the Air National Guard refused to engage in formal consultation with the Service under the ESA concerning the federally endangered species, and has refused to seek – much less obtain – an eagle take permit or migratory bird take authorization from the Service before constructing and operating the project.  As a federal agency, the Air National Guard’s refusal to comply with governing legal mandates not only sets a bad precedent for other renewable energy projects, but also underscores why an environmental impact statement was required for this project – an analysis which the Air National Guard failed to conduct.  The letter can be viewed here.