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State of California v. Bernhardt

Motion to intervene filed to defend protections for property owners

In 2019, the Department of Interior changed the way that it applies the Endangered Species Act by rescinding an illegal rule. The changes offered additional protections for property owners—like Ken Klemm, who runs a 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas. The changes also incentivized property owners to assist in the recovery of species by loosening restrict ...

Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior

Bad rulemaking threatens good conservation

A buffalo rancher by trade, Ken Klemm also uses his 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas for conservation efforts. In fact, Klemm works with the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (KNRC) to implement a conservation plan for the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers such local collaboration for determining endangered listings und ...

Tugaw Ranches, LLC. v. U.S. Department of Interior

Illegal rulemaking threatens livelihoods

Like many western U.S. ranching families, the Picketts have worked on the same land in Idaho for many generations and have a thriving business selling naturally raised beef. And like many ranchers, their business depends on grazing permissions on federal land. But their livelihoods are threatened by rules that set aside over 65-million acres of fed ...

Vaping Litigation

The Constitution going up in vapor

Electronic nicotine delivery systems—vaping devices and e-cigarettes—first hit U.S. stores in 2007. It didn’t take long for vaping to jump from zero to a $5 billion domestic industry, as entrepreneurs quickly recognized a market hungry for an alternative to traditional cigarettes. In 2016, just as the burgeoning vaping industry was gettin ...

Bears Ears National Monument Litigation

Defending public lands access for all

In December 2016, under cover of the Antiquities Act, President Obama unilaterally created the 1.35 million acre Bears Ears National Monument. One year later, President Trump slashed the size of the monument by 85 percent—to around 200,000 acres, freeing up more than one million acres for public use. Outerwear retailer Patagonia, environmental gr ...

Town of Coos Bay, Oregon v. National Marine Fisheries Service

Endangered Species Act abuse forces federal zoning control on local communities

Federal bureaucrats are twisting environmental and emergency management law to control zoning across Oregon, including its treasured coastal regions. At issue is a National Marine Fisheries Service opinion that governs FEMA’s national flood insurance program. Under the rule, local communities wanting federal flood insurance must abstain from ...

Weyerhaeuser/Markle v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Government-sanctioned private land grabs over absent animals are illegal

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its fall term on October 1, 2018, with the famous “frog case” out of Louisiana. That’s where federal regulators declared more than 1,500 acres of private land as a critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog—a species not seen in the state for more than 50 years. PLF client Edward Poitevent owns 95 p ...

Rinehart v. California

Golden State no more? California bans gold prospecting

California’s original Forty-Niners made their fortunes in gold with shovels and pans. Modern-day prospectors use a “suction dredge” – a specialized vacuum – to suck up sediment from streams, extract the gold, and then return the sediment to the stream. Federal law not only permits but encourages suction dredge mining, even on ...

Massachusetts Lobstermen v. Ross

President Obama’s abuse of Antiquities Act declares 5,000 square miles of ocean off-limits

The Antiquities Act of 1906 authorizes the President to declare monuments on “land owned or controlled by the Federal government” to protect their historic or scientific value. On his way out of office, President Obama used this power to declare a 5,000 square mile area of the ocean to be the Northeast Canyons and Seamount Marine Nation ...

Center for Biological Diversity v. Bernhardt

Victory! Federal Court dismisses challenge to Congressional Review Act

PLF scored another victory against bureaucratic overreach on May 9, when the federal court in Alaska dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Congressional Review Act (CRA). At issue in this lawsuit was a regulation known as the Refuges Rule, which greatly restricted access to and use of land within Alaskan Wildlife Refuges. Con ...

Petitions to Repeal 50 C.F.R. § 17.31

Unauthorized expansion of the ESA is a “take” of landowners’ rights

PLF filed parallel petitions asking the Fish and Wildlife Service and Department of Interior to rescind an illegally-adopted regulation that extends the Endangered Species Act’s “take” prohibition to all threatened species, including those not yet listed. The ESA treats endangered and threatened species differently. The penalties ...

Ross v. Acadian Seaplants Ltd.

Secure property rights are key to conservation efforts

Kenneth Ross owns coastal property on Cobscook Bay, Maine, on which rockweed grows in the intertidal area. Acadian Seaplants is licensed by the state to collect rockweed in areas “where seaweed may legally be taken.” Ross and other coastal owners sued to stop Acadian from harvesting rockweed on their property and Arcadian argues that th ...

State of Wyoming v. Zinke

Bureau of Land Management threatens to end fracking boom

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) purports to regulate all “hydraulic fracturing” – fracking – on federal lands based on the potential impacts of fracking to underground drinking water sources, despite the fact that Congress’s Energy Policy Act lets states, not federal agencies, decide how best to regulate fracking’s p ...

Bohmker v. Oregon

Federal mining law preempts Oregon’s ban on suction-dredge mining

Oregon decided to outlaw “suction dredging,” the only profitable method of mining gold from streambed deposits. Suction dredging uses a small, lawn mower-sized motor and an underwater vacuum hose to suck up and filter gold out of streambed sediment. The federal Mining Act, however, encourages free and open exploration for valuable miner ...

Tin Cup, LLC v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Frozen ground is not “navigable water”

Richard Schok runs Tin Cup, LLC, a small family-owned pipe fabrication business in North Pole, Alaska. The Army Corps of Engineers won’t let his growing business relocate to land containing permafrost—land that’s frozen all year long—because the agency claims permafrost is federally protected wetland. However, its permafrost designa ...

Center for Biological Diversity v. Otter

States are not the handmaidens of the federal government

Idaho permits the trapping of certain animals valued for their fur. The regulations require a state permit and require the traps to be checked every 72 hours so that non-targeted species are released. Hunters must notify the state whenever a trap catches a non-targeted species. A radical environmental group sued the state for alleged violation of t ...

WildEarth Guardians v. Department of Justice

Unintentional, accidental “take” of species should not be a crime

A radical environmental group challenged the government’s interpretation of the Endangered Species Act. Because the ESA’s criminal penalties apply only you “knowingly” take a protected species, the government reasonably interprets this to mean that you must know that your actions will cause take and the identity of the speci ...

Johnson v. Environmental Protection Agency

PLF forces EPA to stop harassing farmer over environmentally friendly stock pond

Andy Johnson built a stock pond on his Wyoming property to provide safer, more reliable access to water for his small herd of cattle. More than the cows benefitted: The pond created wetlands, habitat for fish and wildlife, and cleans the water that passes through it. Nonetheless, the federal EPA accused Johnson of violating the Clean Water Act, dem ...

Universal Welding, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Regulatory creep: asserting jurisdiction over the land next door

The Clean Water Act gives the Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction over wetlands, including wetlands that are adjacent to other jurisdictional waters such as navigable rivers or lakes. The law does not give the Corps jurisdiction over wetlands that are adjacent to other wetlands. Universal Welding is a family-owned steel and pipe fabrication busine ...

Lippman v. City of Oakland

The Queen of Hearts would approve of Oakland “justice”

Oakland’s Building Services Division has a long history of mistreating the city’s property owners and engaging in systemic conflicts of interest. Thomas Lippman owns rental property in the city. The agency cited him for $12,000 worth of alleged building code violations. Lippman, who believes these citations are unwarranted, pursued an a ...

Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association

Supreme Court sports gambling decision is win for federalism

A federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) forbade states from legalizing sports gambling. When New Jersey repealed some of its prohibitions against sports gambling, several sports leagues sued, claiming the state violated PASPA, even if the state did not license or permit the activity. The Third Circuit agreed ...

California Sea Urchin Commission v. Combs

Separation of powers at stake in battle over agency otter rule

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service asked Congress for permission in the 1980s to introduce sea otters into Southern California waters, Congress agreed but required protections for lawful fishing activity. In 2012, the Service declared that they would no longer honor the fishing industry protections. On behalf of sea urchin and abalone divers, ...

People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. Fish and Wildlife Service

Prairie dogs and property owners: Both need protection from massive federal overreach

For decades, the federal Endangered Species Act has simultaneously stifled responsible conservation of the Utah prairie dog, while barring property owners from using their own land as they wish. So PLF asked the United States Supreme Court to step in, to protect both the prairie dog and property rights of the people who share the same land. Represe ...

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