Description: Challenge to the National Marine Fisheries Service’s decision not to list alewife or blueback herring as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. Coit
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 03/31/2022 Memorandum Opinion Download Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part. Federal Court Largely Upheld Denial of Petition to List River Herring Species, Rejecting Climate Change Argument. The federal district court for the District of Columbia concluded that the analysis and review supporting the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS’s) denial of a petition to list two species of river herring as threatened under the Endangered Species Act was “thorough” and “largely unobjectionable.” The court rejected the plaintiffs’ contention that the 12- to 18-year timeframe for the “foreseeable future” was too short because it failed to adequately account for the harms of climate change. The court found that the plaintiffs relied “heavily on the foreseeability of the climate change threat,” which the NMFS “does not really contest,” but that the plaintiffs “largely ignore[d] the other half of the analysis—the foreseeability of river herrings’ response to the threat” of climate change. The court found that the NMFS adequately explained why the foreseeability of the species’ response to climate change was difficult to predict. The court also concluded that the NMFS appropriately based its foreseeable future timeframe on the particular species and that NMFS was not required, for example to apply the longer time frame used in listing decisions for various seal species. 10/22/2021 Reply Download Reply filed by plaintiffs in support of motion for summary judgment and opposition filed to defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment. 05/04/2020 Complaint Download Complaint filed. Groups Challenged Decision Not to List River Herring as Threatened. Four environmental and conservation groups filed a lawsuit in federal court in the District of Columbia challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS’s) decision not to list alewife or blueback herring as threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The complaint alleged that the populations of these fish, collectively known as “river herring,” had “declined precipitously from their historic levels, and both species face significant threats to their survival from climate change. The plaintiffs further alleged that NMFS’s decision contained “multiple errors of law, including a discounting of the threats to river herring posed by climate change and a reliance on an unsupported theory that river herring will rapidly ‘recolonize’ rivers if the extant populations in those rivers have been wiped out.”