Fish and Wildlife Service Settles Lawsuits on Listing Deadlines

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On July 12, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) and the Center for Biological Diversity (“CBD”) settled litigation concerning the FWS’s obligations to render decisions on whether species warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”). The settlement does not guarantee that the subject species will be listed as threatened or endangered. Rather, under the terms of the settlement, the FWS agreed to make petition findings and final listing decisions for more than 700 species by 2018. The FWS also agreed to attempt concurrent critical habitat designations.

The FWS had separately settled with WildEarth Guardians (“WEG”) in twelve related lawsuits that had been consolidated with CBD’s action in In Re Endangered Species Act Section 4 Deadline Litigation, MDL Docket No. 2165 (D.D.C.). The WEG/FWS settlement required the FWS to complete initial petition findings for over 600 species and issue proposed listing rules or not-warranted findings for 251 species, including many at issue in the CBD litigation. CBD had opposed the FWS/CBD settlement and sought to attach specific deadlines to findings for specific species. The FWS/CBD agreement has specific timeframes for FWS to publish proposed listing rules or not-warranted findings on three dozen species, adds requirements for FWS to issue 12-month findings on three species not covered by the FWS/WEG agreement, and pushes up the deadline for a decision on the Mono Basin sage-grouse to Fiscal Year 2013.

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Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP on:

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