Markle Interests v. US Fish & Wildlife Serv., No. 14-31008 (5th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Landowners challenged the Service's final designation of critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog. The district court granted summary judgment for Landowners on the issue of standing and granted summary judgment for the Service on the merits. The court concluded that Landowners have standing to challenge the Service’s critical-habitat designation. The court also concluded that the designation of Unit 1 as critical habitat was not arbitrary and capricious nor based upon an unreasonable interpretation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), 16 U.S.C. 1531, where the Service reasonably determined (1) that designating occupied habitat alone would be inadequate to ensure the conservation of the dusky gopher frog and (2) that Unit 1 is essential for the conservation of the frog. Even if the court assumed that Landowners are correct that the economic benefits of exclusion outweigh the conservation benefits of designation, the Service is still not obligated to exclude Unit 1. That decision is committed to the agency’s discretion and is not reviewable. Because Landowners concede that the critical habitat provision of the ESA is a valid exercise of Congress’s Commerce Clause authority, the court can likewise conclude that the application of the ESA’s critical habitat provision to Unit 1 is a constitutional exercise of the Commerce Clause power. Finally, the court concluded that the Service was not required to complete an environmental impact statement before designating Unit 1 as critical habitat for the dusky gopher frog, and Landowners lack standing to sue to enforce the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), 42 U.S.C. 4321 et seq. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on February 14, 2017.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on February 15, 2017.
The court issued a subsequent related opinion or order on April 2, 2019.