Description: Lawsuit challenging the determination that the listing of the Pacific walrus as endangered or threatened was not warranted.
Center for Biological Diversity v. Haaland
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/03/2021 Opinion Download Summary judgment reversed and district court directed to remand to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ninth Circuit Sent Decision that Pacific Walrus No Longer Qualified as Threatened Back to Agency. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not sufficiently explain why it reversed a previous determination that the Pacific walrus qualified for listing as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The Ninth Circuit therefore reversed a district court judgment upholding the FWS’s reversal and directed the district court to remand to the FWS “to provide a sufficient explanation of its new position.” After concluding in 2011 that listing of the Pacific walrus was warranted due to threats that included sea-ice loss through 2100, the FWS issued a final decision in October 2017 that the Pacific walrus no longer qualified as a threatened species. The 2017 decision found that although there would be a reduction in sea ice, there was not “reliable information showing that the magnitude of this change could be sufficient to put the subspecies in danger of extinction now or in the foreseeable future.” The FWS also recharacterized the scope of “foreseeable future,” finding that “beyond 2060 the conclusions concerning the impacts of the effects of climate change and other stressors on the Pacific walrus population are based on speculation, rather than reliable prediction.” The Ninth Circuit said the “essential flaw” in the 2017 decision—which it characterized as a “spartan document” in contrast to the 2011 decision, which was “45 pages in length, contained specific findings, replete with citations to scientific studies and data”—was the “failure offer more than a cursory explanation of why the findings underlying its 2011 Decision no longer apply.” Although the 2017 decision incorporated a final species status assessment that contained new information, the Ninth Circuit found that the “actual decision document does not explain why this new information resulted in an about-face” on whether the Pacific walrus met statutory listing criteria. The Ninth Circuit also found that the 2017 decision did not provide an explanation for decision to recharacterize the “foreseeable future.”
Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 09/26/2019 Order Download Defendants' motion for summary judgment granted. Alaska Federal Court Upheld Determination that Listing of Pacific Walrus as Endangered or Threatened Was Not Warranted. The federal district court for the District of Alaska granted summary judgment to the federal government in Center for Biological Diversity’s lawsuit challenging the 2017 determination that listing of the Pacific walrus as endangered or threatened was not warranted. First, the court found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had provided a reasoned explanation for changing its policy from a 2011 decision that listing was warranted but precluded, including change concerning the effect of projected future losses of sea-ice habitat. Second, the court rejected the claim that the FWS arbitrarily defined the foreseeable future to extend to 2060 rather than 2100. The court said the policy of using 2060 as the foreseeable future timeframe was permissible under the Endangered Species Act, that the use of 2100 in the 2011 listing decision was not determinative, and that the FWS provided reasons for using 2060. Third, the court found that the FWS did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in drawing the conclusion that the Pacific walrus could adapt to loss of habitat. Fourth, the court rejected the argument that the FWS “treated scientific uncertainty inconsistently” by “dismissing the negative impacts of sea ice loss beyond 2060 because of uncertainly, while relying on uncertainty to conclude that the walrus would be able to adapt to the loss of its sea ice habitat, that the population is approaching stability, and that subsistence harvest would remain sustainable.” Fifth, the court said the FWS had adequately considered sea-ice and land habitat and that the failure to consider coastal erosion was not arbitrary and capricious. 05/14/2019 Amicus Brief Download Brief amici curiae filed by the Alaska Oil and Gas Association and the American Petroleum Institute. 05/14/2019 Reply Download Reply brief filed by plaintiff in support of plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and opposition to defendants' cross motion for summary judgment. 04/16/2019 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed by defendants in support of motion for summary judgment. 02/26/2019 Memorandum Download Memorandum filed in support of plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. 11/16/2018 Order Download Motion to compel denied in part and granted in part. 08/06/2018 Motion Download Plaintiffs filed motion to compel completion of the administrative record. 03/08/2018 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Center for Biological Diversity Challenged Decision Not to List Pacific Walrus as Endangered or Threatened. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit in federal district court for the District of Alaska asserting that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision not to list the Pacific walrus as a threatened or endangered species violated the Endangered Species Act. CBD alleged that best available science showed that massive loss of sea ice habitat due to climate change threatened the species’s continued existence and was already having negative effects on the animals. CBD asserted five claims for relief under the Endangered Species Act and Administrative Procedure Act: failure to explain a change in position from the Service’s 2011 conclusion that the Pacific walrus warranted protection; improper “foreseeable future” analysis based on the year 2060 when best available science provided projections of sea ice loss through 2100; failure to consider best available scientific data and reaching conclusions contrary to such data; improper and inconsistent treatment of scientific uncertainty; and failure to conduct a proper listing analysis.