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Western Watersheds Project v. Grimm

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

April 23, 2019

Western Watersheds Project; Center for Biological Diversity; Friends of the Clearwater; WildEarth Guardians; Predator Defense, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
Todd Grimm, Idaho Director, Wildlife Services; USDA Wildlife Services, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted March 4, 2019

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Idaho No. 1:16-cv-00218-EJL-CWD Edward J. Lodge, District Judge, Presiding

          Talasi Brooks (argued) and Lauren M. Rule, Advocates for the West, Boise, Idaho; Kristin F. Ruether, Western Watersheds Project, Boise, Idaho; for Plaintiffs-Appellants.

          Kevin W. McArdle (argued), Andrew C. Mergen, Joan Pepin, Shaun M. Pettigrew, and John P. Tustin, Attorneys; Eric Grant, Deputy Assistant Attorney General; Jeffrey H. Wood, Acting Assistant Attorney General; Environment and Natural Resources Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; Lisa Jabaily and Leah C. Battaglioli, Trial Attorneys, Marketing, Regulatory, and Food Safety Programs Division, Office of the General Counsel, United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.; for Defendants-Appellees.

          Before: Susan P. Graber and Marsha S. Berzon, Circuit Judges, and John R. Tunheim, [*] Chief District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Environmental Law / Article III Standing

         The panel reversed the district court's dismissal for lack of Article III standing of an action brought by plaintiff conservationist groups to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.

         The panel analyzed the requirements of Article III standing that plaintiffs had the burden of establishing.

         First, the panel held that eight declarations from plaintiffs' members describing how USDA Wildlife Services' wolf-killing activities threatened their aesthetic and recreational interests in tracking and observing wolves in the wild fell under the scope of NEPA's protections, and established injury-in-fact.

         Second, the panel noted that causation was established under the relaxed standard for procedural injuries.

         Third, the panel held that the district court erred in finding that plaintiffs' injuries were not redressable, and in relying on Goat Ranchers of Or. v. Williams, 379 Fed.Appx. 662 (9th Cir. 2010), which was unpublished and therefore lacked precedential value, and which was distinguishable on the facts. The panel held that the proper inquiry was whether plaintiffs had shown that halting Wildlife Services' wolf-killing activities pending additional NEPA analysis could protect their aesthetic and recreational interests in gray wolves in Idaho. The panel held that plaintiffs had shown this. The panel remanded for further proceedings.

          OPINION

          TUNHEIM, CHIEF DISTRICT JUDGE

         Conservationist Plaintiffs brought this action to enjoin the federal government's participation in the killing of gray wolves in Idaho pending additional analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 ("NEPA"). Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Grimm and Wildlife Services (together, "Wildlife Services"), a component of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service ("APHIS"), violated NEPA by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") on their wolf management activities in Idaho. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' action for lack of Article III standing, holding that Plaintiffs had not shown that their injuries were redressable because Idaho could engage in the same lethal wolf management operations without the help of the federal government. Plaintiffs appeal. For the reasons below, we reverse and remand.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. National ...


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