Thursday, October 9, 2008

Salmon Spawning & Recovery Alliance v. Gutierrez

Oct 8: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 06-35979. The Ninth Circuit explains that wild salmon and steelhead, which are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), have been the subject of much litigation in the Federal courts. As they swim back and forth from the Pacific Northwest to Canada, the fish have no cognizance of an international boundary, or the Pacific Salmon Treaty of 1999 (Treaty), an effort by Canada and the United States to manage salmon populations originating in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

The appeal concerns whether three conservation groups have standing to challenge the decision of Federal agencies and officials to enter into, and remain a party to, that Treaty. The groups alleged that "take levels" permitted under the Treaty have allowed Canadian fisheries to overharvest endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead. The Western District Court of Washington dismissed all three of their claims for lack of standing. The Appeals Court affirmed the dismissal of the first and second claims; but reversed the district court in part because the groups have "procedural standing" to bring their third claim for relief.

The Ninth Circuit concluded that, "Salmon Spawning has properly alleged procedural injury. . . [and] also meets the requirements for statutory standing under the ESA and the APA. . . [and] Finally, Salmon Spawning has established associational standing. Public Citizen, 316 F.3d at 1019. Each of the conservation groups’ members has standing to sue individually; the interests the groups seek to protect are germane to their purposes as conservation organizations; and neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of the individual members in the lawsuit. Id. Therefore, we reverse the district court’s dismissal of Salmon Spawning’s third claim for lack of standing and remand for further proceedings." The Appeals Court also noted, "We remand to the district court to determine whether attorneys’ fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2412, should be granted. Each party shall pay its own costs on appeal."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).