Jul 012014

Big decision yesterday from the Fifth Circuit, which found that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality could not be held liable under the ESA for the deaths of whooping cranes (The Aransas Project v. Shaw, 13-40317).

Here's the court's summary:

After the deaths of some whooping cranes -- an endangered species -- The Aransas Project (“TAP”) sued directors of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (“TCEQ”) under the Endangered Species Act (“ESA” or the “Act”). TAP sought and was granted an injunction prohibiting TCEQ from issuing new permits to withdraw water from rivers that feed the estuary where the cranes make their winter home. The injunction also required TCEQ to seek an incidental–take permit (“ITP”) from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”). A motions panel of this court stayed the injunction pending appeal. We conclude that the district court’s opinion misapplies proximate cause analysis and further, even if proximate cause had been proven, the injunction is an abuse of discretion. The judgment is reversed.

The court said that the "principal liability issue" in the case was whether TCEQ, "by administering licenses to take water from the Guadalupe and San Antonio rivers for human, manufacturing and agricultural use, foreseeably and proximately caused the deaths of whooping cranes in the winter of 2008–2009. The district court either misunderstood the relevant liability test or misapplied proximate cause when it held the state defendants responsible for remote, attenuated, and fortuitous events following their issuance of water permits."



Fifth hears arguments in case (Beveridge & Diamond)

Oral argument recording (from 5th Circuit)

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Jul 012014

FWS has concluded that a petition to downlist the West Indian manatee contains enough information to warrant a full-blown status review, which it said it would conduct along with the required five-year review for the species. The 90-day finding will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, July 2.

Manatee surfacing to breathe (Photo by Jim P. Reid)

Manatee surfacing to breathe (Photo by Jim P. Reid)

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. The petition was filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation on behalf of Save Crystal River Inc. in December 2012. See below for links.

FWS issues positive 90-day finding on petition to downlist West Indian manatee (FWS says it will conduct 5-year review along with status review) | Docket | Recovery plan can be found here | Science Summary in Support of Manatee Protection Area Designation in Puerto Rico (Drew et al. 2012) | PLF files petition (news release) | Petition | Species profile

Cape Wind (most likely) to get some money from DOE ($150 million, to be exact)

New England cottontail plan submitted by state of Maine, in case the rabbit gets listed. From our Federal Register page:

Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) applies to FWS for an Enhancement of Survival Permit that would authorize take of the New England cottontail resulting from certain habitat improvement and land use activities, should the species be listed as endangered or threatened in the future. | More here

"Significant portion of range" policy finalized by FWS, NMFS and published in the Federal Register today (July 1)

SURTASS LFS SEIS in the works. From ESWR's FR page

Navy will prepare a Supplemental EIS (SEIS)/Supplemental Overseas EIS (SOEIS) to analyze the potential impact of Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System Low Frequency Active (SURTASS LFA) sonar on the five bottlenose dolphin stocks comprising the Hawaiian Islands Stock Complex (Kauai/Niiahu, Oahu, 4-island, Hawaii Island, and Hawaii Pelagic).

Surveys to study rancher attitudes toward jaguar, East Coasters' views of wind energy

The Fish and Wildlife Service has contracted with the University of Arizona to conduct a survey of ranchers in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico "to determine their knowledge of and attitudes toward jaguar habitat, their level of knowledge regarding payments for ecosystem services, and their attitudes and interest toward a payment for ecosystem services intended to benefit jaguar habitat."

The announcement will be published in the July 2 Federal Register.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to explore attitudes toward wind energy

BOEM said it has entered into a cooperative agreement with the University of Delaware for a survey "to assess the impact of offshore wind power projects on coastal recreation and tourism from Massachusetts to South Carolina. The survey will gauge public perceptions of offshore wind energy projects and how development could impact future recreation and visitation choices. BOEM will use this information, along with other economic and environmental information, in our offshore wind decision-making process and marine spatial planning efforts. States and coastal communities will use the information for local coastal planning efforts."

Arlene Bajusz of BOEM's Office of Policy, Regulations and Analysis said the total cost of the agreement for the federal government is $200,000: about $31,000 in survey expense, including photo simulations; $75,000 for faculty and graduate student time plus $20,000 for benefits for faculty and students. Another $4,000 is for domestic travel. About $70,000 is overhead, she said.