Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Appeals court restores lumber companies’ challenge to northern spotted owl habitat

A top federal appeals court has added fuel to a long-running fight over federal protections for the northern spotted owl in California, Oregon and Washington state. In a unanimous decision Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the lumber companies united as the American Forest Resource Council have the legal standing to challenge the owl’s designated “critical habitat.” Federal officials in 2012 designated more than 9.5 million acres in the three states as essential for the owl’s survival. “The council has demonstrated a substantial probability that the critical habitat designation will cause a decrease in the supply of timber from the designated forest lands,” Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote, adding that there’s also evidence that “council members will suffer economic harm as a result of the decrease in the timber supply from those forest lands.” Kavanaugh was joined in the decision by Judge Thomas Griffith, a fellow George W. Bush appointee, and by Sri Srinivasan, a judge appointed by former President Barack Obama. Though they were not ruling on the underlying merits of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s critical habitat decision, the court’s opinion vividly stressed the vast reach of the designation. “The designated critical habitat area is roughly twice the size of the state of New Jersey,” Kavanaugh wrote. “For Easterners, imagine driving all the way up and then all the way back down the New Jersey Turnpike, and you will get a rough sense of the scope of the critical habitat designation here.” Sometimes called the nation’s second-highest court, the D.C. Circuit rules on a wide array of federal government actions. It is also a bit of a feeder to the Supreme Court, and Kavanaugh and Srinivasan have been mentioned as potential future Supreme Court nominees, depending on which party holds the White House...more

I've embedded the opinion below: 


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