The Commerce Clause isn’t a “do-whatever-you-feel-like” power

In an article published today by the Federalist Society’s Engage, I discuss PLF’s constitutional challenge to the Endangered Species Act in the prairie dog case. As you’ll recall, we represented People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners — a … Continue reading

Has the pit bull of environmental law been spayed?

The Endangered Species Act has often been called the “pit bull of environmental law” because “[i]t’s short, compact and has a hell of a set of teeth. Because of its teeth, the act can force people to make the kind … Continue reading

Mens rea and DOJ opposition to criminal justice reform

As you may recall, PLF has moved to intervene in WildEarth Guardians v. DOJ, a case in which environmental groups seek to radically expand the criminal reach of the Endangered Species Act, contrary to its language and common sense. Ultimately, … Continue reading

Take shouldn’t be a strict liability offense

PLF has filed a motion to intervene on behalf of the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Federal Lands Council, and the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau in a case that threatens to radically expand criminal liability under … Continue reading

Recording of 10th Circuit argument in Utah prairie dog case

The Endangered Species & Wetlands Report has obtained the recording of the Monday’s oral argument in the Utah prairie dog case. As you’ll recall, this is the constitutional challenge to the federal government’s authority to regulate any activity that affects … Continue reading

PLF comments on proposed improvements to ESA petition process

This summer, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed revisions to the regulations governing listing and delisting petitions under the Endangered Species Act, to make that process more clear, efficient, and scientifically sound. As PLF explained in the comment that … Continue reading

Did the raisin case silently insulate the Endangered Species Act from the Constitution?

A recent article in Greenwire, reports that opponents of robust Constitutional protections for property rights and limits on federal power are finding a kernel of hope in the Supreme Court’s opinion in the raisin case decided last term. They contend … Continue reading

Can agencies ignore Congress and do whatever they want?

This week, PLF filed its final brief on the motion for summary judgment in the sea otter case. The case will be argued in L.A. on Sept. 21. Representing fishermen whose livelihood depends on being able to access Southern California’s … Continue reading

Adverse decision in green sturgeon critical habitat challenge

Today a Ninth Circuit three-judge panel issued a remarkable legal opinion.  The bottom line: Decisions to include areas as part of critical habitat for endangered or threatened species under the ESA are judicially reviewable, while decisions not to exclude areas from critical habitat are not judicially reviewable.  It’s one heck of a legal opinion.

Logic dictates that decisions to include or exclude areas from critical habitat are flip sides of the same coin. When deciding which area to include, one necessarily decides which areas not to include, i.e., which areas to exclude.  It comes down to a question of what to leave in and what to leave out.  But the Ninth Circuit panel didn’t see it that way when it opined that government decisions “not to exclude” areas from critical habitat designation for the green sturgeon species could not be judicially reviewed, on the ground that there was “no law to apply.”

The decision is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law.  But this case is of more than academic interest to lawyers.  Almost the entire West Coast of the United States has been designated by the government as critical habitat for the green sturgeon, placing substantial roadblocks to economic development and growth in the states of Washington, Oregon, and California.  Quality of life issues for millions of Americans are at stake.

We are reviewing our legal options.