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Wildearth Guardians v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

August 9, 2017

WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE; et al., Defendants, and CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY, Consolidated-Plaintiff, and MONTANA TRAPPERS ASSOCIATION, NATIONAL TRAPPERS ASSOCIATION, and FUR INFORMATION COUNCIL OF AMERICA, Defendant-Intervenors.

          ORDER

          DONALD W. MOLLOY, DISTRICT JUDGE

         There being common issues of fact and law, consolidation of the above-captioned actions is appropriate pursuant to Rule 42(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (See CV 16-65-M-DWM, Docs. 63, 64, 66; CV 17-99-M-DWM, Doc. 11.) There is some disagreement, however, as to the extent of consolidation. Defendant-Intervenors (1) request that the plaintiffs be required to file a single, consolidated complaint in the joint action and (2) seek an order granting them defendant-intervenor status in CV 17-99-M-DWM. (Docs. 64, 65.) Plaintiff WildEarth Guardians and Plaintiff Center for Biological Diversity object to both requests, and insist separate complaints and separate dispositive briefing are necessary. (See Docs. 67; CV 17-99-M-DWM, Doc. 13.) The plaintiffs emphasize that while they both raise claims under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), only WildEarth brings a challenge under the Endangered Species Act ("ESA"). They further argue that Defendant-Intervenors should have filed their request to intervene in CV 17-99-M-DWM.

         As argued by Defendant-Intervenors, the two complaints and the claims raised therein are very similar. For example, both plaintiffs allege NEPA violations based on the agency's effects analysis and its failure to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. That said, WildEarth also raises challenges under the ESA. Additionally, WildEarth's NEPA challenges focus in part on the agency's preparation of an incidental take statement for Canada lynx and the accuracy of the agency's scientific analysis. Because the plaintiffs are distinct organizations that raise similar, but not identical claims, they are not required to file a consolidated complaint. The defendants shall answer the individual complaints in each case.

         That said, the plaintiffs' claims are similar enough that to avoid duplicative briefing, they must jointly brief their NEPA claims. WildEarth may separately brief its ESA claims (both subject to reasonable word limits). The plaintiffs shall also file joint statements of undisputed and disputed facts. The plaintiffs shall also coordinate prior to filing any motions and shall jointly file any motions seeking a similar action by the Court on the same issue. These procedures will streamline the pending litigation and conserve judicial resources without prejudicing the parties' rights to litigate their respective causes of action independently and vigorously in their own best interest.

         Next, given the similarity of the issues and the public interest in adjudicating this matter effectively and efficiently, Defendant-Intervenors' request to intervene in the member case (CV 17-99-M-DWM) is granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). Other than the procedural question of where the motion to intervene should have been filed, the plaintiffs' objections to intervention in the member case is limited to their disagreement with consolidation of complaints and briefing. As discussed above, a certain amount of consolidation is appropriate and will not prejudice the plaintiffs. As a result, the Montana Trappers Association, National Trappers Association, and Fur Information Council of America may intervene in CV 17-99-M-DWM. Defendant-Intervenors shall file answers in both the lead and member cases. However, because their interests are similar, Defendant-Intervenors shall also be limited to joint filings for summary judgment (both briefs and statements of fact) and are further required to coordinate prior to filing any motions, and to jointly file any motions seeking a similar action by the Court on the same issue.

         Accordingly, IT IS ORDERED that the above-captioned cases are consolidated for all further proceedings under the case number CV 16-65-M-DWM and captioned as shown above. The Clerk of Court shall file this Order in the docket for each case.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the defendants in each case shall file their answers separately under the two respective case numbers in CM/ECF on or before August 31, 2017. Thereafter, all parties shall file all documents in the lead case number CV 16-65-M- DWM and spread the particular documents to the member case.

         IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that:

         1. Rule 26(f) Conference and Case Management Plan.

         The parties shall file a proposed case management plan on or before September 25, 2017. The parties shall e-mail a copy of the proposed case management plan in WordPerfect (preferred) or Word format to dwmpropord@mtd.uscourts.gov. Lead trial counsel for the respective parties shall, at least two weeks before the proposed case management plan is due, meet to discuss the nature and basis of their claims and defenses, to develop the proposed case management plan, and to discuss the possibilities for a prompt settlement or resolution of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. The case management plan resulting from the Rule 26(f) conference is not subject to revision, absent compelling reasons.

         2. Contents of Case Management Plan.

         The proposed case management plan should contain deadlines for the following pretrial motions and events or should state that such deadlines are not necessary:

Motions to Dismiss (fully briefed)
Certification of Administrative ...

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