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WildEarth Guardians v. United States Dep't of Agric.

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 3, 2015

WILDEARTH GUARDIANS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Defendant-Appellee

Argued and Submitted,  March 9, 2015, San Francisco, California

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. D.C. No. 2:12-cv-00716-MMD-PAL. Miranda Du, District Judge, Presiding.

SUMMARY [*]

Environmental Law

The panel reversed the district court's order dismissing a case brought by WildEarth Guardians, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act, and seeking to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of predatory animals in Nevada.

The district court dismissed for lack of standing, holding that WildEarth had not shown that its alleged injuries were caused by the government's reliance on a decades-old programmatic environmental impact statement (" PEIS" ); and that, in any event, WildEarth's injuries were not redressable where Nevada could choose to implement an independent predator damage management program if the federal government ceased its activities.

The panel held that both of the district court's reasons for dismissal were erroneous. Concerning Claims One and Two, which challenged the government's failure to supplement the 1994/1997 PEIS for its predator damage programs nationwide, the panel held that the injuries WildEarth member Don Molde alleged were concrete enough, and were sufficiently causally related to the government's failure to update the PEIS, to support WildEarth's standing for those claims.

Concerning Claims Three and Four, which alleged that the government violated the National Environmental Policy Act by preparing an inadequate environmental assessment for Nevada and consequently failing to prepare a Nevada-specific Environmental Impact Statement, the panel held that the standing requirements were met and WildEarth member Don Molde's injury was redressable. The panel held that the mere existence of multiple causes of an injury did not defeat redressability, particularly for a procedural injury.

Ashley D. Wilmes (argued), WildEarth Guardians, Louisville, Colorado, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Robert G. Dreher, Acting Assistant Attorney General; Emily A. Polachek (argued), Andrew C. Mergen, J. David Gunter II, and Brian Collins, United States Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Washington, D.C.; Annalisa Jabaily, and Lauren Axley, United States Department of Agriculture, Office of General Counsel, Washington, D.C., for Respondent-Appellee.

Rebecca J. Riley, Natural Resources Defense Council, Chicago, Illinois, for Amici Curiae Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, Predator Defense, TrailSafe Nevada, Northeast Oregon Ecosystems, Center for Biological Diversity, Southwest Environmental Center, Friends of Animals, Mark E. Smith Foundation, Western Watersheds Project, and Boulder-White Clouds Council.

Thomas M. Gremillion and Hope M. Babcock, Institute for Public Representation, Washington, D.C., for Amici Curiae Professors of Environmental Law.

Before: M. Margaret McKeown, Mary H. Murguia, and Michelle T. Friedland, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

FRIEDLAND, Circuit Judge

Environmental organization WildEarth Guardians sued to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of predatory animals in Nevada. WildEarth alleged that the program's continued reliance on a decades-old programmatic environmental impact statement (" PEIS" ) causes the government to use outdated and unnecessarily harmful predator control techniques that interfere with WildEarth's members' enjoyment of outdoor activities. The district court dismissed for lack of standing, holding that WildEarth had not shown that its alleged injuries were caused by the government's reliance on the PEIS, and that, in any event, Nevada could choose to implement an independent predator damage management program if the federal government ceased its activities, so WildEarth's injuries were not redressable. Both of these reasons for dismissal were erroneous, so we reverse.

I. Background

A. National Environmental Policy ...


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