Friday, September 19, 2008

Fund For Animals v. Kempthorne (Interior Department)

Sep 18: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No. 05-2603. In this case the Plaintiffs appeal from a decision of the district court that granted defendants, Department of Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), a summary judgment and dismissing plaintiffs' claims challenging the defendants' Public Resource Depredation Order, 50 C.F.R. § 21.48, as a violation of treaty obligations and Federal statutes. The Appeals Court affirmed the decision of the district court.

The case involves double-crested cormorants (cormorants). The birds are not protected by the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq., but their treatment is regulated by international treaties to which the United States is a party, and by Federal statutes and regulations. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has been delegated primary responsibility for regulating migratory birds, including cormorants. [See Migratory Bird Permits; Regulations for Double-Crested Cormorant Management, 68 Fed. Reg. 12,653, 12,653 (Mar. 17, 2003)].

The plaintiffs brought this action to challenge the Depredation Order, which, they allege, violates the relevant treaties and statutes by "authoriz[ing] state fish and wildlife agencies, Indian Tribes, and U.S. Department of Agriculture . . . employees to kill an unlimited number of federally protected double-crested cormorants in New York and twenty-four other States, without any restrictions on time of year or location of the killings, without any advance notice to the FWS, and without any showing of specific, localized harm caused by the cormorants." The Depredation Order was issued because When migratory birds converge in large numbers, they may consume large quantities of local plants, fish, or other species. In doing so, they may harm commercial activity dependent on those species.

In its decision the Appeals Court ruled that "the Depredation Order does not violate the Migratory Bird Treaty Act the MBTA," and it accepts the agency's view regarding compliance with the Mexico Convention; "the Depredation Order represents one rational response to the problem of cormorant depredation based on evidence available to the FWS, and the FWS has explained its reasons for choosing one rational response over others"; and the "FWS did not violate NEPA by omitting site-specific analyses in this case."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).

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