President's weekly report — April 8, 2016
Endangered species — California Sea Otters
PLF filed its opening brief in a challenge to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s denial of a petition demanding that the agency follow the law in California Sea Urchin Commission v. United States Fish & Wildlife Service. This case centers on a compromise that Congress struck between the Service, environmentalists, and those who work and play in Southern California waters. The plan was to relocate sea otters to selected areas in Southern California and keep rich sea urchin fishing grounds free of the transplanted otters. Recently, the Service has destroyed that compromise, by unilaterally disclaiming compliance with Congress’ commands. For more, see our blog post.
Endangered species — wolverines
The fight over whether to list the wolverine under the Endangered Species Act has dragged on for twenty years. This week, a federal district court in Montana decided to prolong the battle. We intervened in Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell on behalf of Idaho and Montana farming and recreational users, arguing that the government couldn’t slice out ever smaller geographic areas in order to reach “endangered” status, when the animal is common elsewhere. For more, see our blog post here. As our blog concludes, “this unfortunate decision could hurt farmers and ranchers throughout the Rocky Mountain west if the wolverine is listed. With luck, the Fish & Wildlife Service will stick to its conclusion that it shouldn’t impose heavy regulations based on speculation.”
Open government — public records stonewalling
There’s been a long-running dispute in Marin County, Florida, over the release of a county commissioner’s public business emails that were supposedly hacked and lost on his private email account. Now, in Lake Point v. Martin County, a Florida court of appeal sent the case back to trial court. That is because, in response to yet another request from the property owner, Martin County finally released public records for the first time from another commissioner’s private email address. These emails should have been released in Lake Point’s original public records request, but the County never released them until last month. Our blog explains more here.
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California Sea Urchin Commission v. Jacobson
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, as long as lawful fishing activity could continue without prosecution over incidental otter takings. The otter population grew, but not enough for the Service which declared the program a failure in 2012. This meant the agency would no longer honor the fishing industry protections. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals further ruled that since the original statute didn’t spell out exactly what happens if the program ends, the agency can claim any powers not expressly forbidden by Congress. On behalf of sea urchin and abalone divers, lobster trappers, and other fishermen, PLF has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case, enforce the Constitution, and give power back to Congress where it belongs.Read more