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.