|Roadless Rule Defense: Affirmed At Court of Appeals, Enjoined in Another Circuit||The Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 58.5 million acres of national forest land, was repealed by the Bush adminstration and replaced by a state-by-state petition process. In September 2006, Judge Elizabeth Laporte in San Francisco declared the petitions rule illegal and reinstated the Roadless Rule nationwide, except for the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Two years later, Judge Brimmer reissued his moratorium declaring the Roadless Rule illegal throughout the country. But the following year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed protection for over 40 million acres of wild national forests and grasslands from new road building, logging, and development. On October 21, 2011, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed Wyoming district court, upholding the Roadless Rule and vacating the prior injunction.|
|Setting Sewage and Animal Waste Limits||The Clean Water Act puts pollution limits on lakes and streams to protect their uses for drinking water, recreation, and fish and wildlife habitat. Earthjustice has sought to force the Environmental Protection Agency to create effective water quality standards.|
|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.
|Coalbed Methane Gas & Coal Mining Development in Flathead River Basin||
The Flathead River flows from British Columbia south into Montana and forms the western boundary of Glacier National Park. Coalbed methane gas extraction and open-pit coal mining in the Canadian headwaters of the Flathead River threaten to fragment the Flathead's abundant habitat for grizzly bears, wolves, and wolverines, and to pollute the river's pristine waters.
Earthjustice submitted petitions to the appropriate international agencies to seek to protect this special river and its surrounding habitat, and in 2010, British Columbia, in partnership with the state of Montana, has agreed to ban mining, oil and gas development, and coalbed gas extraction in the valley.
|Protecting Healthy Elk & Bison in Wyoming||
Each winter, the federal government feeds approximately 8,000 elk and 900 bison, or buffalo, on the 24,700-acre Jackson Hole National Elk Refuge in northwest Wyoming. This winter feeding program began in 1910 after growing human development in the Jackson Hole region intruded on winter ranges for native wildlife, and has continued ever since. Now, however, it has become apparent that crowding of elk and bison on winter feed lines -- like crowding of children in a kindergarten class room -- exposes the animals to a high danger of disease transmission. Already the fed elk and bison are widely afflicted with brucellosis, a disease that causes female animals to abort their calves. Even worse, crowding on the refuge feed lines exposes the elk to a high risk of contracting chronic wasting disease, the elk equivalent of "mad cow" disease, which is always fatal and which has steadily been moving northwest in Wyoming toward the Jackson Hole area over the past several years.
Despite these wildlife disease threats, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decided in 2007 to continue winter feeding of elk and bison for the foreseeable future, rather than to embark on a new plan that would seek to return these animals to their native winter range. In making this decision, the agency deferred to the wishes of local hunting outfitters, who want high elk numbers for their clients, and local ranchers, who wish to keep the elk away from forage that is now used to graze cattle. But the law governing the National Wildlife Refuge System requires the Service to maintain "healthy populations" of wildlife for the benefit of present and future generations of all Americans, not to maintain feedgrounds that perpetuate wildlife disease for the benefit of a few local interests. Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in June 2008 to enforce this law.
|National Smog Standards||Earthjustice is fighting for stronger limits on ozone or smog -- pollution linked to premature deaths, thousands of emergency room visits, and tens of thousands of asthma attacks each year. Ozone is especialy dangerous to small children and senior citizens, who are often warned to stay indoors on polluted days. Smog pollution can also severely damage forests and plants, stunting their growth and increasing the risk of die-off from disease. Unfortunately, smog standards recently adopted by the U.S. EPA are far weaker than recommended unanimously by the agency's own science advisors, leaving public health and the environment at great risk. Earthjustice is challenging these standards on behalf of public health and conservation groups.|
|Strengthening Protections for Our Nation's Forests||
In 2007, Earthjustice won its challenge to the Bush administration's 2005 revision of the National Forest Management Act planning regulations, which govern management of the 193-million-acre National Forest System. In response to our win, the Forest Service issued revised regulations. Unfortunately, the revised regulations are virtually the same as the regulations that the court invalidated, and the process by which they were adopted suffers from the same legal infirmities as the 2005 revision. Once again the regulations run counter to the National Forest Management Act, which was passed in 1976 in reaction to rampant overharvesting of commercial timber from the national forests, especially through clearcutting. The Act was expressly intended to reduce the Forest Service's discretion in managing the national forests, placing limits on timber harvesting and promoting the protection of other resources, including wildlife and native plants, watersheds, and recreation, while the revised regulations eliminate precisely those limits and protections.
This suit will challenge the revised regulations.
|Rock Creek Mine: Threat to Wildlife||
The proposed Rock Creek Mine project in northwest Montana would be located adjacent to and literally under the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness Area in the Kootenai National Forest. The copper and silver mine's location is in a sensitive portion of grizzly bear habitat, and construction will add sediment to local waters, which would smother bull trout spawning areas.
Since 2001, the Fish & Wildlife Service has issued flawed biological opinions repeatedly, and Earthjustice has repeatedly -- and successfully -- challenged the approval for the mine.
In December 2007, the Fish & Wildlife Service once again gave the mining company approval to begin construction activities, based on a biological opinion that relies on mitigation measures that are not sufficient to protect the populations of grizzly bear. This biological opinion also permits extensive degradation of a portion of Rock Creek previously deemed critical habitat for bull trout.
To allow mining and other mineral development under federally designated wilderness would set a dangerous precedent. Earthjustice is challenging this renewed approval for the mine.
|Oil and Gas Lease Sale in the Chukchi Sea||Alaska's Chukchi Sea, part of America's Arctic, provides vital habitat for polar bears, endangered bowhead whales, walrus, beluga whales, seals, fish and marine birds. In recent years, the wildlife and people of this poorly-understood but precious and vibrant region have experienced dramatic impacts from climate change, melting sea ice, declining wildlife populations and eroding shorelines.|
|Herring Trawlers: Threat to New England Fisheries||
The population of groundfish off the coast of New England has been depleted for years. In 1994 nearly all fishing was banned from waters identified as spawning grounds and sanctuaries for cod, haddock, and other groundfish in order to give groundfish a chance to rebound from overfishing.
Herring mid-water trawlers were initially banned from the groundfish-closed areas in 1994. But in 1998 federal regulators decided to re-open these areas to trawlers, based on an assumption that the herring ships would catch little or no groundfish in their nets. As a result of this loophole in the regulations, it's estimated that these vessels have caught hundreds of thousands of pounds of mature and juvenile groundfish as bycatch.
Earthjustice has filed suit on behalf of local fishing groups to force federal regulators to close this loophole.
|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.
|Red Legged Frog: Critical Habitat||
In the spring of 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service bowed to industry and developer pressure by issuing a rule that greatly diminished the critical habitat of the endangered California red legged frog. Critical habitat is defined to include those areas that are "essential to the conservation of the species." Also, by law, critical habitat determinations must be made based upon the "best scientific and commercial data available."
Earthjustice discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests that political pressure by officials in the D.C. office, including former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior Julie MacDonald, rose to the level of improper influence compromising the scientific integrity of the final critical habitat rule. This pressure caused field office scientists to ignore important scientific documents, such as the frog's Recovery Plan, and to exclude from the final rule significant areas of habitat that the FWS had previously determined were "essential to the conservation" of the frog. The result is a final critical habitat rule that does not provide for the recovery of the frog, nor is it based on the best available science.
In September 2008, the FWS published a proposed rule that would significantly increase the critical habitat for the red-legged frog, and Earthjustice settled the lawsuit.
|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.
|Hatchery Listing Policy||
The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) adopted a policy that would require fisheries scientists to count hatchery-bred salmon along with the population of wild salmon when making endangered species assessments.
Earthjustice sued on behalf of several conservation groups and groups of fishing enthusiasts, and on June 13, 2007, a federal court agreed that the policy was scientifically flawed and inconsistent with the Endangered Species Act.