Center for Biological Diversity v. Salazar

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 08-21-2012
  • Case #: 10-35123
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge W. Fletcher for the Court; Circuit Judges Goodwin and M. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

The Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that oil and gas regulation would take only “relatively small numbers” of polar bears and Pacific walruses in relation to population size is consistent with and permissible under the MMPA and other environmental statutes.

Plaintiffs, the Center for Biological Diversity and Pacific Environment, filed suit in federal district court challenging the Department of Interior and Fish and Wildlife Service’s (“the Service”) regulations and accompanying environmental reviews, which authorized a five-year incidental take of polar bears and Pacific walruses resulting from oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea and the coast of Alaska. Plaintiffs alleged that the regulations and reviews failed to comply with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”) and various environmental statutes. The district court granted summary judgment for the Service and Plaintiffs appealed. The Ninth Circuit concluded that the MMPA requires the Service to determine separately that a specified activity will take only a “small number” of marine mammals, and that the take will only have a “negligible impact” on the species stock. The Court held that the Service permissibly determined that only a “relatively small number” of polar bears and Pacific walruses would be taken in relation to the size of their larger populations, because the agency determined independently that the take would only have a “negligible impact” on the mammals’ annual rates of recruitment or survival. AFFIRMED.

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