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Sept. 15, 2021

Landmark Legal Cases to Stop the Mass Extinction of Species

For five decades, Earthjustice has fought thousands of legal cases, representing our clients free of charge.

See some of our proudest accomplishments to save irreplaceable species from extinction and ensure they can thrive in a warming world.

1977–today · Nationwide

Earthjustice has used the Endangered Species Act to protect hundreds of imperiled plants and animals, including the palila, an endangered bird found only on Mauna Kea, in one of the earliest uses of this visionary law.

The Endangered Species Act is one of the most popular and effective environmental laws ever enacted. It has prevented the extinction of 99% of species under its protection.

While serious threats remain, thanks to the Endangered Species Act, we have a fighting chance of preserving our world's flora and fauna for future generations.

Earthjustice has also defended the Endangered Species Act itself from attacks waged by multiple administrations that sought to weaken it for the benefit of polluting industries and private developers.

Our Clients & Partners include: American Bird Conservancy, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation Council for Hawaiʻi, Defenders of Wildlife, Humane Society of the United States, National Parks Conservation Association, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians, Hawaiʻi Audubon Society, National Audubon Society, Sierra Club Hawaiʻi Chapter
1987—today · Pacific Northwest

In 1980s and 1990s — and then again in the 2000s — Earthjustice fought to protect the northern spotted owl, whose habitat is under threat from logging.

After much work across several presidential administrations, federal agencies adopted the Northwest Forest Plan in 1994. It was the first broadscale ecosystem management approach — a then-new way of treating the forest like the complex and interdependent system it is.

Earthjustice continues to defend old-growth forests in the Pacific Northwest and support science-based management plans.

Our Clients & Partners include: Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Center for Biological Diversity, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Umpqua Watersheds
Work by Earthjustice’s Northwest Regional Office
1994–today · Washington

For more than 25 years, Earthjustice has been using the law to try to restore the lower Snake River and remove four outdated dams that are driving wild salmon to extinction. The loss of the fish also threatens the creatures that eat them, including endangered orcas.

Three different federal judges declared five different federal hydropower plans illegal because they failed to protect threatened and endangered salmon in the Columbia River basin.

The Pacific Northwest was once home to one of the greatest salmon runs in the world: The Columbia / Snake river system. But all remaining Snake River salmon are facing extinction because of the four dams standing in their way to reaching their pristine, natal cold water streams in central Idaho and beyond.

Earthjustice is now pushing Congress to create a comprehensive solution that would bolster clean energy, strengthen the economy, and honor our treaties and commitments to Native American Tribes.

Our Clients & Partners include: American Fisheries Society, American Rivers, Columbia Riverkeeper, Idaho Rivers United, National Wildlife Federation, Northwest Environmental Advocates, Northwest Sport Fishing Industry Association
Work by Earthjustice’s Northwest Regional Office
2011–today · Gulf of Mexico

Sea turtles thrived in our oceans for more than 100 million years. But in a matter of decades, human activities have sent their population into severe decline.

Along with our client and allies, we brought a series of court actions that made significant progress to ensure the enforcement of legally required safeguards for endangered sea turtles. But threats remain.

In notable cases in 2009 and 2011, Earthjustice successfully sued the National Marine Fisheries Service for failing to protect sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico from deadly longline fishing. The agency had known for years that longline vessels were catching Gulf turtles by the hundreds — levels that greatly exceed the allowed limit — yet still failed to fulfill its legal responsibilities to protect sea turtles.

The legal actions forced the agency to finally take concrete steps to preserve the population of imperiled Gulf turtles.

We continue to fight for the sea turtles’ future, including to prevent thousands of sea turtles from drowning in fishing nets each year, when proven, cost-effective solutions already exist.

Our Clients & Partners include: Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Turtle Island Restoration Network, Defenders of Wildlife, Florida Wildlife Federation, Healthy Gulf, Sea Turtle Conservancy
2017–today · California

Earthjustice stopped Cadiz, Inc., from taking groundwater from the Mojave Desert and selling it to suburban Los Angeles.

The aquifer connects to freshwater springs and riparian vegetation, which nourish bighorn sheep, tortoises, and migratory birds as they cross the dunes.

The company returned with another dubious plan that the Trump administration greenlit, but Earthjustice filed a new lawsuit against the project in 2021 and will fight in court until Cadiz’s ill-advised plan is derailed.

This work is part of Earthjustice's core commitment to safeguarding public lands for future generations.

Our Clients & Partners include: Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety
Work by Earthjustice’s California Regional Office
2020 · Atlantic Ocean

Two years of litigation fighting seismic airgun permits granted to fossil fuel companies resulted in a critical reprieve for one of Earth's rarest ocean creatures, the North Atlantic right whale.

Earthjustice legal pressure forced the companies in 2020 to shelve their plans for seismic airgun blasting in vast portions of the Atlantic Ocean.

The seismic surveys pose a dual threat. They are the first step toward offshore drilling. And the seismic blasting involves repetitive blasts that are so loud that they can be heard 2,500 miles away. For marine species such as whales, dolphins, and other mammals, who rely on sound to communicate and navigate, seismic airgun surveys can be life-threatening.

Earthjustice’s fight against seismic blasting is part of wider efforts to protect fragile species and halt the extraction of fossil fuels that drive climate change.

Our Clients & Partners include: Surfrider Foundation, Sierra Club
Work by Earthjustice’s Oceans Program

You’re invited

Earthjustice’s 50th Anniversary Virtual Celebration

Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at 4pm PT / 7pm ET

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