Description: Challenge to biological opinions issued by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service that found that forest plans developed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) were not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Mexican spotted owl.
WildEarth Guardians v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 09/12/2019 Order Download Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment granted in part and denied in part; timber management actions ordered to cease pending formal consultation. Federal Court Barred Timber Management in Arizona National Forests Pending New Jeopardy Analysis for Mexican Spotted Owl but Upheld Climate Change Analysis. The federal district court for the District of Arizona enjoined the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from proceeding with timber management actions in 11 national forests in Arizona and directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the USFS to reinitiate a formal Section 7(a)(2) consultation pursuant to the Endangered Species Act to reassess the jeopardy analysis and the effect of Forest Plans on recovery of the threatened Mexican spotted owl. The court found that a 2012 no-jeopardy determination was unsupported, arbitrary, and capricious because it did not account for the owl’s recovery. The court found, however, that the plaintiff failed to show that the defendants had not considered climate change effects on the Mexican spotted owl and therefore held that the FWS’s analysis of climate change was neither arbitrary nor capricious. 04/04/2017 Status Report Download Joint status report filed. Parties Notified Arizona Federal Court That They Could Not Settle Dispute Over Impacts of Forest Plans on Mexican Spotted Owl. Four months after requesting a stay to explore settlement possibilities, WildEarth Guardians and federal defendants asked the federal district court for the District of Arizona to proceed to resolve their motions for summary judgment in WildEarth Guardians’ lawsuit challenging biological opinions issued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that found that forest plans developed by the United States Forest Service (USFS) were not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the Mexican spotted owl or to destroy or adversely modify the owl’s critical habitat. The Mexican spotted owl has been designated a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. WildEarth Guardians argued, among other things, that the biological opinions were arbitrary and capricious because they failed to contain any meaningful discussion of climate change even though the USFS’s Mexican spotted owl experts had concluded that climate change “may be the biggest issue” facing the species. In December 2016, the court granted a joint request for a stay after the parties indicated they were meeting in person in January 2017 to discuss new science pertaining to the owl as well as current and planned owl-management efforts with the hope of reaching a settlement. In their status report on April 4, 2017, the parties stated that “[i]t has now become apparent to the parties that it will not be possible to achieve a negotiated resolution of the matters raised in this litigation.” 12/08/2016 Order Download Joint motion for stay granted. 12/07/2016 Motion Download Joint motion to stay case filed. 06/24/2016 Response Download Response filed by WildEarth Guardians in opposition to defendants' cross-motion for summary judgment. 06/03/2016 Opposition Download Opposition filed by federal defendants to plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. 03/31/2016 Motion for Summary Judgment Download Motion for summary judgment filed by WildEarth Guardians. 06/10/2013 Complaint Download First amended complaint filed.