Description: Lawsuit alleging that agencies violated the Endangered Species Act when they approved a silver and copper mine project in Montana in one of the last remaining undisturbed habitats in the region for the threatened grizzly bear and bull trout.
Ksanka Kupaqa Xaʾⱡȼin v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 10/10/2019 Opinion and Order Download Motions for judgment on the pleadings denied. Montana Federal Court Denied Defendants’ Early Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings in Challenge to Mine Project. The federal district court for the District of Montana denied motions for judgment on the pleadings for two claims in a lawsuit challenging federal determinations authorizing a silver and copper mine project in Montana. First, the court noted that the federal defendants had acknowledged that the complaint stated a cognizable claim that the decision not to reinitiate Endangered Species Act consultation for the grizzly bear in connection with the project was arbitrary and capricious. Second, the court rejected the arguments that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge the use of an allegedly improper metric to measure incidental take of bull trout—which the complaint alleged were particularly vulnerable to climate change—and that this claim was not ripe because the taking of the bull trout would not occur until Phase II of the project, which was not yet approved. 01/25/2019 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Endangered Species Act Lawsuit Filed Challenging Federal Approvals for Montana Silver and Copper Mine Project. A “coalition of traditional cultural leaders from the Ksanka Band of the Ktunaxa Nation and local, regional, and national conservation organizations” filed a lawsuit in the federal district court for the District of Montana asserting that federal agencies failed to comply with the Endangered Species Act when they authorized the Rock Creek Mine project in the Cabinet Mountains in northwest Montana. The complaint alleged that the copper and silver mine project would tunnel under one of the region’s last undeveloped habitats for two threatened species, grizzly bear and bull trout. (The complaint alleged that bull trout were threatened by a number of factors and were particularly vulnerable to climate change because they require “especially cold water to spawn and rear.”) The plaintiffs contended that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) had concluded that a 2006 no-jeopardy determination for the grizzly bear remained valid without considering new mortality data. The plaintiffs also challenged the FWS’s biological opinion for the bull trout as well as U.S. Forest Service authorizations that relied on the FWS determinations.