Cascadia Wildlands v. Thrailkill

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 12-03-2015
  • Case #: 14-35819
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Rawlinson for the Court; Circuit Judges Hawkins and Callahan
  • Full Text Opinion

The court defers to the agency on matters of science.

The Douglas Complex fire destroyed around 48,000 acres of Oregon’s forest. Subsequently, the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management organized the Recovery Project (the Project) to clean up burnt foliage and restore the habitat of the endangered spotted owl. Pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, the Bureau conferred with the Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) before beginning its Project. Although the Project was likely to kill twenty-four owls, the Service concluded in their biological opinion that the Project was unlikely to critically jeopardize or destroy the owl’s habitat. Environmental groups, led by Cascadia Wildlands, motioned the district court for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the initiation of the Project. It was denied and, subsequently, Cascadia appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit reviewed the district court’s denial. The panel held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Cascadia’s motion for preliminary injunction as the Service’s conclusions were “supported by the best available science, and were not arbitrary and capricious.” Where matters of science are concerned the court should defer to the agency. The panel held that the lower court appropriately complied with this administrative maxim when it held that the Service fully considered the consequences of the Project on the spotted owl’s habitat. Moreover, the panel affirmed that Cascadia was unable to prove its likelihood of success on the merits. AFFIRMED.

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