The controversy continues over the scope of the take prohibition under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). As we noted here, the Solicitor’s Office for the US Department of the Interior (DOI) issued an opinion in late 2017 concluding that the MBTA does not prohibit the incidental take of migratory birds. Although this conclusion was consistent with the holdings of at least two US Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Solicitor’s Opinion came under immediate fire from conservation groups and several former government officials. In May of this year, two environmental groups filed lawsuits in federal court challenging the Opinion. In a court filing earlier this month, the government stated its intention to move to dismiss these suits based on several threshold grounds, such as whether the Opinion is a final agency action subject to judicial review. These lawsuits inject fresh uncertainty into an area of the law that DOI sought to clarify. Continue Reading US Fish & Wildlife Service To Seek Dismissal of Suits Challenging MBTA Legal Opinion

On April 16, 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule removing the black-capped vireo (BCV) from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. 83 Fed. Reg. 16,228. The BCV is a migratory songbird that breeds and nests in Texas, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico, and winters along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Its breeding habitat includes shrublands and open woodlands. The delisting decision is based on the Service’s determination “that the primary threats to the [BCV] have been reduced or managed to the point that the species has recovered.” The delisting will take effect on May 16, 2018. The Service will work with the States of Texas and Oklahoma to implement a 5-year post-delisting monitoring program in compliance with section 4(g)(1) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Continue Reading U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Publishes Final Rule Delisting the Black-Capped Vireo

As recently noted here, shortly after the Trump administration took office last year, the Solicitor’s Office for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) withdrew a legal opinion it issued in the waning days of the Obama administration which concluded that the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) prohibits incidental take of migratory birds, pending further review of the question.  The results of that further review were revealed on December 22, 2017, when the Solicitor’s Office issued a new opinion reaching the opposite conclusion.

Continue Reading The Other Shoe Drops on the MBTA

Uncertainty has reigned for a number of years about the scope of the take prohibition under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). In the latest effort to address this problem, the House Committee on Natural Resources has attached an amendment to a pending energy bill that would clarify that the MBTA does not prohibit incidental take of protected birds.

The MBTA, a criminal statute enacted in 1918, is one of the oldest wildlife protection laws on the books and covers over 1,000 bird species, including approximately 90 percent of all birds occurring in North America and many common species. The MBTA makes it illegal for any person to “pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, attempt to take, capture or kill, possess, offer for sale, sell, offer to purchase, purchase, … ship, … transport, … carry, … receive … at any time, or in any manner, any migratory bird, … or any part, nest, or egg of any such bird.” 16 U.S.C. § 703.

Continue Reading De-Criminalizing the Inevitable: Some Hope for Rationalizing the MBTA?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule “Update” for the 2008 national ambient air quality standards for ozone – the so-called CSAPR Update Rule – on October 26, 2016.  81 Fed. Reg. 74504.  The CSAPR Update Rule regulates emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from power plants located in 22 states in the eastern half of the country by establishing statewide ozone-season NOx emission budgets scheduled to take effect beginning May 1, 2017.  (Under the Clean Air Act, the regulatory “ozone season” runs from May 1 through September 30 each year.)

Continue Reading States, Industry Parties, and Environmental Groups Challenge EPA’s Latest Interstate Air Emissions “Transport” Rule in D.C. Circuit Litigation

On November 30, 2016, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) published a notice in the Federal Register announcing its finding that a September 2016 petition filed by several environmental groups “presents substantial scientific or commercial information” indicating that listing of the lesser prairie-chicken (LPC) under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) “may be warranted.” The Service has initiated a 12-month status review to determine whether listing the LPC is warranted. The Service has requested that information relevant to the status review be submitted by January 30, 2017, in order to be considered during the status review.

Continue Reading US Fish and Wildlife Service Issues Finding That Lesser Prairie-Chicken “May Warrant” Relisting Under the Endangered Species Act