- Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
- Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
- Date Filed: 06-25-2015
- Case #: 12-57297
- Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Parker for the Court; Circuit Judges Pregerson and Nguyen
- Full Text Opinion
The Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) categorized the Santa Ana sucker as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”) in 2000. Under the ESA, FWS was required to conduct research and issue a final determination of the critical habitat within two years after the proposed listing rules – as opposed to the ten years it took the FWS here. The district court held that FWS violated the ESA, and ordered a final critical habitat designation by 2004. In 2004, the FWS released its Final Rule designating specific areas as critical habitat for the sucker. The FWS subsequently revised the Final Rule excluding certain areas from the critical habitat. Additionally in a 2010 Final Rule, the FWS re-designated as critical habitat for the sucker several thousand acres of land that they had previously excluded. As a result, several water districts and municipalities sued FWS. The district court granted the FWS’s motion for summary judgment. The water districts and municipalities appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s findings regarding the following: (1) the text of the ESA Section 2(c)(2) explicitly indicates that it does not create an obligation to cooperate in situations involving water resource issues but rather a mere policy goal; (2) FWS’s critical habitat designation of land covered by the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan was proper because FWS, pursuant to ESA Section 4(b)(2) used studies to fully address their findings including the impact on conservation plans and local partnerships; (3) the language of the 2010 Final Rule was proper because it sufficiently explained why designation of critical habitat was inadequate to maintain conservation of the sucker; and (4) FWS did not violate the National Environmental Policy Act because the Act does not apply to designations of critical habitat. AFFIRMED.