Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rock Creek Alliance v. US Fish & Wildlife Service

Nov 16: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-35596. Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Montana. The Appeals Court indicates that Plaintiff-Appellant Rock Creek Alliance appealed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Defendant-Appellee the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Intervenor-Defendant-Appellee Revett Silver Company in an action brought pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, which requires Federal agencies to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service before undertaking any action "authorized, funded, or carried out" by the agency that might "jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of habitat" used by any endangered or threatened species. The Appeals Court affirmed what it called the "district court's well-reasoned opinion."
    Revett Silver Company proposed to build and operate a copper and silver mine in northwest Montana, part of which will be on land managed by the U.S. Forest Service. Because the mine might impact two species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act -- the bull trout and the grizzly bear -- the Forest Service was required to engage in formal consultations with the Fish and Wildlife Service before approving the mine. As a part of those consultations, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued two biological opinions that concluded that the mine would result in "no adverse modification" to critical bull trout habitat and would result in "no jeopardy" to the local grizzly bear population.
    In the district court, Rock Creek Alliance challenged the biological opinions, arguing that the Fish and Wildlife Service's conclusions were arbitrary, capricious, and violated the Endangered Species Act. The district court disagreed, and granted summary judgment in favor of the Fish and Wildlife Service and Revett Silver Company. Rock Creek Alliance then appealed. After specifically addressing each of the Alliance's challenges, the Appeals Court ruled, ". . .the Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that the mine would entail 'no adverse modification' to bull trout critical habitat and would result in 'no jeopardy' to grizzly bears was not arbitrary, capricious, or in violation of the Endangered Species Act. Affirmed."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Wildlife, #CA9]