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Friends of the Wild Swan v. Ashe

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

May 8, 2014

FRIENDS OF THE WILD SWAN; ROCKY MOUNTAIN WILD; BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION ALLIANCE; and SAN JUAN CITIZENS ALLIANCE, Plaintiffs,
v.
DANIEL ASHE, in his official capacity as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; THE U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE; S.M.R. JEWELL, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Interior; and the UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, Defendants

Page 1078

For Friends of the Wild Swan, a non-profit organization, Rocky Mountain Wild, a non-profit organization, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, a non-profit organization, San Juan Citizens Alliance, a non-profit organization, Plaintiffs: John R. Mellgren, LEAD ATTORNEY, Eugene, OR; Matthew Kellogg Bishop, LEAD ATTORNEY, Helena, MT.

For Daniel Ashe, in his official capacity as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a Federal Agency, S.M.R. Jewell, in her official capacity as Secretary of the Interior, United States Department of the Interior, a Federal Department, Defendants: Travis J. Annatoyn, LEAD ATTORNEY, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC.

OPINION

Page 1079

ORDER

Donald W. Molloy, United States District Judge.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (" Service" ) listed the Canada lynx as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (" ESA" ) in March 2000.[1] 65 Fed. Reg. 16052 (Mar. 24, 2000). Once a species is listed as threatened, the Service must designate the critical habitat of tat species and develop and implement a recovery plan. 16 U.S.C. § 1533(a), (f). At the time of listing, the Service did not designate critical habitat for the lynx. Alliance for the Wild Rockies v. Lyder, 728 F.Supp.2d 1126, 1129 (D. Mont. 2010). And since that time, the designation of lynx critical habitat has been repeatedly litigated. ( See Doc. 21 at 5-7 (discussing the history of that litigation).) To date, no recovery plan has been completed.

This is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to the ESA and the Administrative Procedures Act (" APA" ), 5 U.S.C. § 706. Plaintiffs are various environmental organizations that request an order declaring that the Service's delay in preparing a recovery plan for the lynx is unreasonable and compelling the Service to abide by a set deadline. (Doc. 18.) Defendants concede that the development and implementation of a recovery plan is a mandatory duty and that a recovery plan for the lynx has not been developed or implemented, (Doc. 21 at 9, 29); however, Defendants have filed a cross-motion for summary judgment (Doc. 21) on the grounds that the delay is not unreasonable. For reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is granted.

Legal Standard

A party is entitled to summary judgment if it can demonstrate that " there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). Summary judgment is warranted where the documentary evidence produced by the parties permits only one conclusion. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the lawsuit will preclude entry of summary judgment; factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary to the outcome are not considered. Id. at 248.

Analysis

I. Plaintiffs have standing to pursue their claim.

Standing encompasses three elements: (1) injury in fact; (2) causation; and (3) redressability. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560-61, 112 S.Ct. 2130, 119 L.Ed.2d 351 (1992). An organizational plaintiff has ...


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