Opposition to transfer venue filed in jaguar critical habitat case

June 09, 2016 | By RAYMOND NHAN

As our regular readers will know, PLF is representing three New Mexico organizations—New Mexico Farm & Livestock Bureau, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, and New Mexico Federal Lands Council—challenging the illegal critical habitat designation foJagsr jaguars in New Mexico. Despite only challenging the designation of land in New Mexico, two environmentalist groups seek to have PLF’s clients litigate their claim in Arizona. PLF filed this opposition to the environmentalists motion to transfer venue because New Mexico organizations should not be forced to challenge the designation of New Mexico land in an Arizona court.

On behalf of the three organizations, PLF initially sued the federal government in the United States District Court of New Mexico for listing areas in the state as critical habitat for the jaguar, even though only two jaguars have been seen in the state over the past forty years. The critical habitat designation is important because it leads to significant, and sometimes crippling, restrictions on property owners’ rights.

Since that time, several parties have intervened on both sides of this litigation. In August 2015, the two environmentalist groups filed a motion to intervene as defendants. In December 2015, three organizations representing Arizona and New Mexico interests also moved to intervene as plaintiffs. Along with the New Mexico designation, the Plaintiff-Intervenors are also challenging the designation of Arizona land as a critical habitat for the jaguars. PLF has not opposed any party’s motion to intervene.

The environmental groups make two arguments as to why this case should be transferred from New Mexico to Arizona. First, they argue that this case should be transferred because most of the designated land is in Arizona. Second, they argue that PLF’s choice to sue in New Mexico is entitled to little consideration because we did not oppose the plaintiff-intervenors’ intervention (even though we did not oppose the environmentalists’ motion to intervene either). Neither of these arguments outweigh PLF’s decision to sue the federal government in New Mexico. As we explain in our opposition to the motion to transfer venue, a plaintiff’s choice of forum should rarely be disturbed. And in this case, the environmentalist groups have failed to meet their burden to show why it is proper to transfer this case to Arizona.