Justia Opinion Summary
The court affirmed the FWS's finding that listing the whitebark pine as a threatened or endangered species was "warranted but precluded." Wildwest asserted that FWS's decision was arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with the law. Determining that the case was not moot, the court concluded that FWS was not bound to list species based solely on the degree of threat they face as demonstrated by the assigned Listing Priority Number (LPN), that instead it could properly consider factors outside of those listed in the guidelines, and further that FWS's decision contained a sufficient “description and evaluation of the reasons and data on which the finding was based” to satisfy the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531-1544.

Court Description: Endangered Species Act. The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Secretary of the Department of the Interior (“FWS”) and the State of Wyoming in a suit brought by environmental groups under the Endangered Species Act, challenging FWS’s finding that listing the whitebark pine as a threatened or endangered species is “warranted but precluded.” The Secretary’s “warranted but precluded” finding recognizes that a species qualifies for protection under the Endangered Species Act, but does not actually give any protection to the species. The panel held that because the case was capable of repetition, yet evading review, the case was not moot. The panel held that the FWS’s finding that listing the whitebark pine was “warranted but precluded” satisfied the Endangered Species Act, and that the decision was not arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise in WILDWEST INSTITUTE V. KURTH 3 violation of the law. The panel held that the FWS was not bound to list species based solely on the degree of threat they face as demonstrated by the assigned Listing Priority Number, and that instead it could properly consider factors outside of those listed in the guidelines. The panel further held that FWS’s decision contained a sufficient “description and evaluation of the reasons and data on which the finding is based” to satisfy the Endangered Species Act. 16 U.S.C. § 1533(b)(3)(B)(iii). The panel held that the FWS may properly consider its budget, and court orders or statutory deadlines relating to pending proposals for other species, when concluding that the listing of a given species was “warranted but precluded.”

Read the opinion at: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/14-35431/14-35431-2017-04-28.html



John Stewart
Editor, OutdoorWire.com
Vice President, BlueRibbon Coalition