Endangered Species Act Issues Relevant to Public Lands

On March 1, 2016, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's ("Service") decision to not list the dunes sagebrush lizard.1  The D.C. Circuit validated the Service's decision to rely on a Texas conservation plan, concluding that evaluating the adequacy of the plan implicated the Service's judgment and expertise and was entitled to deference.2   In so doing, the court rejected the appellants' argument that the Texas plan could not be relied upon because it was not sufficiently certain to be implemented or effective.3 


On February 26, 2016, the Ninth Circuit reversed a federal district court's decision vacating portions of the critical habitat designation for the polar bear.4  The Ninth Circuit concluded, contrary to the lower court, that the Service properly relied on the constitutional elements standard to designate critical habitat, and that the Service was not required to establish current use by existing polar bears.5  The Service argued, and the Ninth Circuit agreed, that the Endangered Species Act requires proof that an area "is critical to future recovery and conservation of the species." 6

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1 Defenders of Wildlife, v. Sally Jewell, 2016 WL 790900 (D.C. Cir. March 1, 2016).

2 Id.

3 Id.

4 Alaska Oil & Gas Ass'n v. Sally Jewell, 2016 WL 766855 (9th Cir. Feb. 29, 2016).

5 Id.

6 Id.

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