Denver; March 18, 2020: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of thousands of acres of land in New Mexico as critical habitat for jaguars is illegal. The court ruled that the agency failed to follow its own rules, thus the designation was arbitrary and capricious.
The illegal designation created obstacles for ranchers to get grazing permits and to build corrals, stock ponds, and fences. The designation also increased fire risks in fire–prone areas like Coronado National Forest. All this, despite the fact that only a few jaguars have been seen in New Mexico over the past several decades, while thousands live in Central and South America.
“This decision helps our clients and it helps Americans everywhere, because it reminds agencies that they must follow the law passed by Congress, and they must follow their own regulations,” said Senior Attorney Christina Martin, of Pacific Legal Foundation, which represented the New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, New Mexico Cattlegrowers’ Association, and New Mexico Federal Lands Council.
This decision comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously last year in Weyerhaeuser v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that in order to designate property as critical habitat, agencies must prove that the area is both habitat and critical to the conservation of species. Most recently, after two petitions from PLF, the Department of the Interior changed their rules for designating critical habitat to reflect the Weyerhaeuser decision.
Pacific Legal Foundation is a national nonprofit legal organization that defends Americans threatened by government overreach and abuse. Since our founding in 1973, we challenge the government when it violates individual liberty and constitutional rights. With active cases in 39 states plus Washington, D.C., PLF represents clients in state and federal courts, with 12 victories out of 14 cases heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.