U.S. District Court Denies Motion To Limit ESA Claims To Administrative Record

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In Conservation Congress v. U.S. Forest Service, No. CIV. 2:12-02416 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 26, 2013), the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California denied (pdf) a motion brought by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to limit review of claims brought under the citizen suit provision of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the administrative record.  The court denied defendants' motion because it "would be premature to determine at this early stage of the proceedings" whether plaintiffs' claims “should be strictly limited to the administrative record.”

Plaintiffs are challenging defendants' actions relating to three proposed logging projects in the Mendocino National Forest under the ESA and the National Environmental Policy Act. Among other things, plaintiffs are asserting that defendants failed to consult under section 7 of the ESA.  

Defendants brought a motion to limit review of plaintiffs' ESA citizen suit claims to the administrative record.  Specifically, defendants argued that Administrative Procedure Act principles of record review apply to claims brought under the citizen suit provision of the ESA.  Consistent with other recent decisions, the court rejected defendants' argument.     

The court ruled that defendants could later object to the court’s consideration of extra-record materials, but allowed plaintiffs to pursue discovery regarding their ESA citizen suit claims.