Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke, No. 14-17513 (9th Cir. 2017)

The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the FWS in an action challenging the FWS's determination that the Sonoran Desert Area bald eagle was not a distinct population segment eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1533. The panel held that FWS reasonably concluded that, while the combination of unusual characteristics in a discrete population was sufficient to satisfy the persistence factor, those characteristics did not by themselves necessarily require a conclusion that the desert eagle population segment was ecologically or biologically significant for the bald eagle taxon as a whole; FWS reasonably concluded that if the desert eagle population segment were "extirpated," this would not create a significant gap in the range of the taxon; and FWS directly addressed climate change in its 2012 decision.

Court Description: Endangered Species Act. The panel affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) in an action brought by plaintiff environmental groups challenging the FWS’s determination that the Sonoran Desert Area bald eagle was not a distinct population segment eligible for listing under the Endangered Species Act. In order to qualify as “distinct,” the population segment must be both discrete and significant. The parties agreed that the desert eagle population was discrete, and disputed whether the population was significant. The panel rejected plaintiffs’ contention that the FWS acted arbitrarily and capriciously in concluding in 2012 that the desert eagle population segment was not significant within the meaning of the distinct population segment policy. Specifically, the panel held that FWS reasonably concluded that, while the combination of unusual characteristics in a discrete population was sufficient to satisfy the persistence factor, those characteristics did not by themselves necessarily require a conclusion that the desert eagle population segment was ecologically or biologically significant for the bald eagle taxon as a whole. The panel further held that the FWS reasonably concluded that if the desert eagle population segment were “extirpated,” this could not create a significant gap in the range of the taxon. Finally, the panel held, contra CTR. FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY V. ZINKE 3 to plaintiffs’ contention, that the FWS directly addressed climate change in its 2012 decision.

Source: JUSTIA

Last edited by outdoorwire; 09/01/17 07:12 PM.

John Stewart
Editor, OutdoorWire.com
Resources Consultant, California Four Wheel Drive Association
Board of Directors, BlueRibbon Coalition