Earthjustice attorneys represent public-interest clients concerned about threats to the environment and hold accountable those who jeopardize the health of our planet. Thanks to the generosity of our many supporters, we provide expert legal support free of charge to groups large and small. Several of the most important legal battles for this year can be found at the 2014 Legal Docket.
Our complete legal docket includes about 300 active cases. Learn about some of our recent and historical cases:
|Wyoming Elk Feedgrounds||
The state of Wyoming operates 23 winter feedgrounds for elk, many of them on federal lands. These feedgrounds artificially concentrate elk populations, which fuels the spread of diseases such as brucellosis and creates the prospect of a major chronic wasting disease epidemic. Conservationists sued to compel long overdue environmental analysis of alternatives to elk-feeding in Wyoming.
In July 2009 the 10th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the four elk feed grounds on land managed by the Bureau of Land Management are exempt from a new environmental impacts analysis, due to an old memorandum of understanding agreed to by the BLM and the state of Wyoming. However, as a result of this lawsuit, the U.S. Forest Service prepared an environmental impact statement examining the impacts of feed grounds within the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
|ORV Use in National Park Creek Bed||Salt Creek, one of the most important streams in Canyonlands National Park, is threatened by San Juan County's R.S. 2477 claim.|
|Colorado River Cutthroat Trout||The Colorado River cutthroat trout, once abundant throughout its range, has been nearly wiped out by dams, diversions, and other human-caused impacts. Earthjustice has filed suit to force the Fish and Wildlife Service to grant Endangered Species Act to the species. In September 2006, a federal judge ruled that the FWS must give the species a thorough evaluation.|
|Honolulu Irradiator||Earthjustice has been fighting to ensure adequate environmental review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of an application to build a Cobalt-60 irradiator to treat fruit and vegetables for fruit flies at a site located in a tsunami evacuation zone and near active runways at the Honolulu International Airport, residential neighborhoods and schools.|
|Kane County Signage & RS 2477||
Kane County, Utah, is home to some of our nation's most treasured public lands and wilderness. Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area lie within its boundaries. But county executives assert that scores of river corridors, cow paths, hiking trails and streambeds in Kane County are county "highways" under an 1866 federal statute known as R.S. 2477 -- a statute repealed by Congress in 1976.
In 2003, the county removed numerous signs that the Bureau of Land Management installed to identify routes and limit certain types of ORV use that had damaged the land. In 2005 county officials posted their own signs which indicated that other routes the BLM had closed to off-road vehicles were actually open. In August 2005, the county adopted an ordinance that would open to off-road vehicle use scores of trails to off-road vehicle use on lands where such use is prohibited under federal rules, including hiking trails and stream beds inside Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks, routes within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and trails and stream beds closed to off-road vehicle use in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
This action allows destructive off-road vehicles (ORV) to use many of these trails and streambeds, endangering the environment and exposing cultural artifacts to damage and theft. Many of these trails are remote and unmaintained, which will put ORV riders at risk.
In October 2005, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance and The Wilderness Society to protect these important public lands for all Americans. In September 2009, the Tenth Court of Appeal rejected the county's attempt to take the law into its own hands, reasoning that the county's actions violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.
|Bush Roadless Repeal||In July 2005, the Bush adminstration repealed the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a Forest Service regulation which generally prohibited logging, road construction, and other development on over 58 million acres of roadless land in national forests. Earthjustice challenged the repeal, and on September 20, 2006, a federal district court ordered reinstatement of the rule. Furthermore, on November 29, 2006, the court ordered the Forest Service to stop work on 84 oil and gas projects and an Idaho road project that had been approved during the five years that the roadless rule was illegally repealed.|
|Shoreline Certification Rules||A state board's improper definition of shoreline is contributing to the loss of beaches throughout Hawai'i.|
|Wolverines: Legal Protection Needed||
The wolverine is generally intolerant of human disturbance in its habitat. Its presence in a area signifies untrammeled, uncompromised wilderness. This lawsuit asked a federal court to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's refusal to consider new legal protections for the wolverine.
In October 2006, a federal judged ruled that the FWS wrongly rejected scientific information regarding the wolverine that "shows a dramatic loss in range, the tangible decrease in population with the commensurate threat of genetic isolation of subpopulations, and the threat posed by human encroachment on wolverines."
Tens of thousands of communication towers dot landscapes across the country. In Texas alone, there are over 10,000 of these towers; the FCC receives approximately 20-25 new applications for tower construction each month. These towers pose a significant threat to endangered bird species, especially migratory birds. This filing sought to compel the FCC to revise its rulemaking and consider the impacts within an environmental impact study that a new tower may pose.
In February 2008, a federal appeals court ruled that the FCC did not follow the law to carefully consider the possible adverse effects to migratory birds when it issues permits for towers.
Otero Mesa is a desert grassland in New Mexico that provides habitat for several federally protected species. Conservationists and the State of New Mexico want to protect the most sensitive areas, while the Bush administration wanted to throw it all open to oil and gas development.
On April 28, 2009, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision invalidating the Bush administration drilling plan for Otero Mesa.
|Appeals Reform Act||The Bush administration has put forward new regulations that would eliminate the right of ordinary citizens to participate in the management of their nation's forests. Earthjustice has challenged the regulations in court.|
|Pesticide Impacts on Salmon & Steelhead||Back to court to force EPA to abide by court order.|
|Coastal Cutthroat Listing||Cutthroat trout that live in coastal rivers in the Pacific Northwest and California have declined sharply owing primarily to habitat destruction, but the Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to protect them. A lawsuit aims to rectify that dire situation.|
|Columbia River Hydropower Reform||A combination of dams, diversions, pollution, and other factors has reduced the populations of wild salmon in the watershed of the Columbia to a tiny fraction of their historic size. Earthjustice is involved in several lawsuits aimed at restoring the salmon and making the river more hospitable to them.|
|NFMA Rule Challenge||
A 1976 law requires the Forest Service to protect wildlife on the national forests and allow citizens to participate in management decisions. The Bush administration has moved to reduce protections and all but cut citizens out of the process. Earthustice filed suit to challenge the new rules. In March 2007, a federal judge invalidated the administration's new regulations.