United States of America
Declaratory Relief, Permits, Biodiversity, Evidence, Admissibility, Remedies, Jurisdiction, Standing, Administrative
Plaintiffs to this suit — organizations and individuals that support sustainable hunting of the Canadian Wood Bison — alleged that the Secretary of the Department of Interior, acting through the United States Fishing and Wildlife Service ("the Service"), violated several provisions of the ESA in his treatment of that species. Specifically, Plaintiffs contend that the Secretary failed to: (1) make a twelve-month finding as to the status of the Canadian Wood Bison upon petition and (2) process Plaintiffs’ applications to import bison hunting trophies. The Canadian Wood Bison is presently categorized as "endangered" under the ESA. In November 2007, however, the Canadian National Wood Bison Recovery Team ("the Team") petitioned the Secretary to "downlist" the Wood Bison to a "threatened" status. Upon such petition, the secretary, pursuant to the ESA, has ninety days to indicate whether the action "may be warranted." Additionally, within twelve months, the Secretary must produce a final finding as to whether the petitioned action "is warranted, is not warranted, or is warranted but is precluded . . . .". In February 2009, the Secretary issued a ninety-day finding; he concluded that the Team’s downlisting petition "may be warranted." The Secretary did not, however, issue a twelve-month finding. Plaintiffs subsequently brought this action one month after the Secretary issued his ninety-day finding, contending that the Secretary’s failure to issue a twelve-month finding violates the ESA. The court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claim, finding that Plaintiffs failed to provide adequate written notice to the Secretary at least sixty days before bringing suit. The court concluded that Plaintiffs’ intent to sue letter did not specify to the Secretary that they intended to challenge his subsequent failure to issue a twelve-month finding. Since Plaintiffs gave the Secretary inadequate opportunity to review his actions and take corrective measures, the claim was dismissed. Additionally, Plaintiffs — four individuals who each successfully hunted a Wood Bison in Canada — brought suit against the Service under the ESA for failure to process their applications to import bison trophies. While the present litigation was pending, however, the Service denied each plaintiff’s application for import permits. Plaintiffs nevertheless sought declaratory judgment. The court denied Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory relief, finding that such relief cannot be granted absent "sufficient immediacy" and "substantial controversy." Since the Service already denied Plaintiffs’ applications, immediacy was not sufficiently adequate to grant the relief requested. Finally, the court noted that while the Service’s subsequent application denials cannot, in and of themselves, render Plaintiffs’ claim moot, the lack of evidence that Plaintiffs intend to apply once again for import permits can. To defeat Defendant’s contention that Plaintiffs’ claim is moot, the alleged violation must be "reasonably expected to recur against the plaintiff, and not simply others who may one day be in his place." Since the four particular plaintiffs in the action failed to demonstrate that they ever intended to again apply for import permits in the future, the court denied Plaintiffs’ claims.