Decision stands in sage grouse case

September 26, 2012 | By BRIAN HODGES

Last February, Chief U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill sustained the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s finding that listing the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act was warranted, but precluded by more pressing projects.  Today, the judge denied a motion by Western Watersheds Project and other environmental groups that sought to amend the February ruling.  Today’s order means the February ruling—and the Service’s finding that listing the sage grouse is warranted-but-precluded—will stand.

In order to uphold the Service’s decision, the court had to find that the Service was making “expeditious progress” on making a final determination to list or not list the sage grouse.  The court ruled that the Service had made that showing.  However, the environmental groups argued that the court improperly relied on material outside the administrative record when it cited a settlement agreement from another lawsuit as evidence of the Service’s progress.  Judge Winmill rejected that argument today, describing it as “essentially asking the Court to evaluate progress by ignoring progress.”

It remains to be seen whether the environmental plaintiffs will appeal.

For more information about this case, check out PLF’s brief.