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Our Cases

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:

Roan Plateau: Challenge to Oil & Gas Leasing Plan

The Roan Plateau, just west of Rifle, Colorado, provides an island of near-unrivaled biodiversity in western Colorado. The Roan contains essential habitat for genetically pure populations of Colorado River cutthroat trout; supports Colorado's greatest herds of elk and mule deer; and hosts a number of rare and sensitive plants. BLM itself acknowledges that the Roan also contains at least 19,000 acres of wilderness-quality lands. The area is extremely popular with sportsmen for backcountry angling, hunting and other recreation.    

The BLM, however, plans to lease the Roan for oil and gas development, and to allow drilling more than 3,600 wells on the Upper Plateau. BLM admits that the backcountry and wilderness values for which the Roan is known would be seriously compromised by such intensive development. BLM's leasing plan also disregards widespread opposition from the towns and counties in the area, as well as from Colorado's governor and congressional delegation -- all of whom sought to additional protections for the Roan.  

Earthjustice represents a coalition of groups in challenging the BLM leasing plan.     

Challenge to Coalbed Methane Development in HD Mountains

A proposed natural gas drilling project near Durango, Colorado, will bulldoze roadless forest, worsen air pollution, threaten homes, and pollute wilderness areas and Mesa Verde National Park. The project porposes almost 200 new coalbed methane wells, including approximately 30 wells and 8 to 9 miles of new roads inside the currently undeveloped HD Mountains roadless areas. Despite this, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have approved the permits necessary for the project.

Earthjustice is challenging the project on behalf of conservation groups, homeowners, a rural county, and individuals whose livelihood would be negatively impacted by the drilling as proposed. 

 

South Shale Ridge Oil and Gas Leasing

The South Shale Ridge wilderness is home to wildlife and rare plants, and is a popular destination for hikers and hunters. However, the BLM reversed an earlier recommendation to protect the ridge as a Wilderness Study Area and instead leased the vast majority of land for oil and gas drilling.

In August 2007, the Federal District Court in Colorado ruled that the BLM violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it granted the leases, and ordered the BLM to consider the effect of drilling and development on rare species in the area.

Bonneville Cutthroat Trout Listing

In 2002, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied to extend protection of the Bonneville cutthroat trout under the  Endangered Species Act, despite the fact that the species has been eliminated from 90 percent of its range, due to habitat degradation, predation, and hybridization from non-native trout.

Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, the Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, and the Pacific Rivers Council, and in October, 2007, the FWS announced that it has reversed its earlier decision and will consider placing the Bonneville cutthroat trout on the Endangered Species List.

Inyo County RS 2477 Quiet Title Act Intervention Earthjustice intervened in a case to defend designated national park wilderness in Death Valley from being opened to highway construction and vehicle use.
San Diego Vernal Pools The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a permit to the city of San Diego that would allow the destruction of seven species dependent on vernal pools. On October 13, 2006, a federal district court invalidated the permit.
County Line Timber Sale

Forest Guardians and several nearby landowners are challenging a back-country timber sale adjacent to a wilderness area in southwestern Colorado that would ruin an area prized by hunters, fishermen, hikers, and mountain bikers.

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.
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.

Otero Mesa

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.

BLM Wilderness Attack In 2003, the Bush administration agreed to stop protecting millions of acres of potential wilderness. The agreement was the result of a suit by the state of Utah and others that was settled in secret. Conservation groups intervened, and are challenging the settlement in a very convoluted and drawn-out case.
Grand Canyon Humpback Chub The population of humpback chub in the Grand Canyon has fallen by two-thirds since the species was protected 30 years ago. The reason: Glen Canyon Dam and invasive species. The recovery plan for the chub is totally inadequate to the task. Earthjustice is in court to force a better plan.
Rio Grande Cutthroat Trout Listing Ninety-nine percent of the Rio Grande cutthroat trout's original habitat is lost and 95% of its remaining population is subject to existing threats. But the Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to protect it under the Endangered Species Act so Earthjustice is asking for a court order.