Case Law Index Endangered Species Act

January 1, 2000 – September 15, 2019


This index provides a comprehensive though not necessarily exhaustive compilation of reported and unreported federal and state court decisions involving the Endangered Species Act that were decided between the dates listed above.  The cases are listed in reverse chronological order. The “Text” link goes to the freely available Google Scholar text of the opinion.  These listings are for educational purposes only, and are not a substitute for legal counsel.

Supreme Court

Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 139 S. Ct. 361 (2018) (Land is eligible for designation as critical habitat under the ESA only if it is habitat for species.) Text

National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 551 U.S. 644 (2007) (A regulation seeking to apply consultation and no-jeopardy mandates of the ESA only in situations in which there is discretionary federal involvement or control was reasonable interpretation entitled to deference.) Text.

Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154 (1997) (Ranchers and irrigation districts had standing to seek judicial review of a biological opinion proposing use of reservoir water to protect endangered species of fish.) Text

Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Communities for a Great Oregon, 515 U.S. 687 (1995) (The regulatory definition of “harm” in the ESA section defining the term “take” was reasonable.)  Text

Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992) (Plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge a regulation that required other agencies to confer with the Secretary of the Interior under the ESA only with respect to federally funded projects in the US and on the high seas.) Text

U.S. v. Dion, 476 U.S. 734 (1986) (Defendant could not assert a tribal treaty right defense to the ESA charge, given that the Bald Eagle Protection Act abrogated any such right.) Text

Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill, 437 U.S. 153 (1978) (Construction of the Tellico Dam could not continue after a finding that operation of the damn would eradicate an endangered species.) Text

First Circuit

Strahan v. Diodati, 755 F.Supp.2d 318 (D. Mass. 2010) (Officers of state agencies did not cause takings of federally protected whales.) Text

Maine v. Norton, 257 F.Supp.2d 357 (D. Me. 2003) (Joint distinct population segment policy of the National Marine Fisheries Service and Fish & Wildlife Service was a reasonable construction of ambiguous language in the ESA.) Text

Blue Water Fishermen’s Ass’n v. Nat’l Marine Fisheries Serv., 226 F.Supp.2d 330 (D. Mass. 2002) (Agency determinations under the ESA must utilize best scientific data available not best scientific data possible.) Text

U.S. v. Town of Plymouth, Mass., 6 F.Supp.2d 81 (D. Mass. 1998) (Fish & Wildlife Service sought preliminary injunction under the ESA to prohibit town from allowing off-road vehicles.) Text

Strahan v. Coxe, 127 F.3d 155 (1st Cir. 1997) (That no death of protected northern right whales occurred did not preclude the finding that Massachusetts’ licensing of gillnet and lobster pot fishing caused a “takings” in violation of the ESA.) Text

American Bald Eagle v. Bhatti, 9 F.3d 163 (1st Cir. 1993) (Standard for establishing taking of species for purposes of the ESA require a showing of actual harm, rather than any numerical probability of harm.) Text

Second Circuit

American Bird Conservancy v. Harvey, 232 F.Supp.3d 292 (E.D.N.Y. 2017) (Members of wildlife conservation group had standing in action asserting violation of the Endangered Species Act.) Text

U.S. v. One Etched Ivory Tusk of African Elephant, 871 F. Supp. 2d 128 (E.D.N.Y. 2012) (African elephant tusk did not fit definition of “sports-hunted trophy” or “trophy hunting.”) Text

Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n v. Norton, 386 F.Supp.2d 553 (D. Vt. 2005) (Rule eliminating Northeastern gray wolf population area from recovery efforts violated notice and comment requirements.) Text

Fourth Circuit

Red Wolf Coal. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 346 F.Supp.3d 802 (E.D.N.C. 2018) (FWS’s grant of two lethal takes of red wolves was arbitrary and capricious in violation of the ESA.) Text

Sierra Club v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, 899 F.3d 260 (4th Cir. 2018) (Take limits in incidental take statement from FWS authorizing natural gas pipeline were arbitrary and capricious.) Text

Hill v. Coggins, 867 F.3d 499 (4th Cir. 2017) (Visitors had standing to bring action against zoo operator alleging poor maintenance of bears constituted unlawful taking under the ESA.) Text

Dow AgroSciences LLC v. National Marine Fisheries Service, 707 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2013) (Opinion that unrestricted registration of products would jeopardize the existence of protected salmonid species was arbitrary and capricious.) Text

Animal Welfare Inst. v. Beech Ridge Energy LLC, 675 F. Supp. 2d 540 (D. Md. 2009) (ESA’s citizen-suit provision allows actions alleging wholly-future violations of the statute.) Text

Gibbs v. Babbitt, 214 F.3d 483 (4th Cir. 2000) (Limiting taking of red wolves on private land valid under Commerce Clause.) Text


Fifth Circuit

Graham v. San Antonio Zoological Soc’y, 261 F.Supp.3d 711 (W.D. Tex. 2017) (Fact issues existed as to whether zoo’s treatment of elephant amounted to “harm” or “harassment” in violation of ESA.) Text

Aransas Project v. Shaw, 775 F.3d 641 (5th Cir. 2014) (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s actions in administering licenses to take water did not violate ESA.) Text

Schoeffler v. Kempthorne, 493 F.Supp.2d 805 (W.D. La. 2007) (Failure to timely designate critical habitat for threatened species was continuing violation.) Text

Save Our Springs Alliance v. Norton, 361 F.Supp.2d 643 (W.D. Tex. 2005) (FWS could delay issuance of its 12-month finding.) Text

Sierra Club v. Veneman, 273 F.Supp.2d 746 (E.D. Tex. 2003) (Management plan for endangered species was not arbitrary or capricious and satisfied ESA requirements.) Text

Center for Biological Div. v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 202 F.Supp.2d 594 (W.D. Tex. 2002) (Developer adequately mitigated impacts of taking of a listed species.) Text

Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 245 F.3d 434 (5th Cir. 2001) (Failure to designate critical habitat for threatened Gulf sturgeon was in error.) Text

Shields v. Babbitt, 229 F.Supp.2d 638 (W.D. Tex. 2000) (Taking of species located solely within a single state could be regulated by Congress.) Text

Sierra Club v. Glickman, 156 F.3d 606 (5th Cir. 1998) (Environmental organization brought action against USDA alleging ESA violations.) Text

Save Our Springs v. Babbitt, 27 F.Supp.2d 739 (W.D. Tex. 1997) (Plaintiffs sued to compel the Secretary of the Interior to list a salamander under the ESA.) Text

Center for Marine Conservation v. Brown, 917 F.Supp. 1128 (S.D. Tex. 1996) (Environmental group brought action against federal agencies and employees alleging violations of the ESA.) Text

Sierra Club v. Yeutter, 926 F.2d 429 (5th Cir. 1991) (Environmental groups challenged USFS’s timber management activities under the ESA.) Text

U.S. v. Nguyen, 916 F.2d 1016 (5th Cir. 1990) (Defendant was convicted of violating the ESA for illegal possession of a listed species.) Text

Sierra Club v. Lyng, 694 F.Supp. 1260 (E.D. Tex. 1988) (Various environmental groups sued USFS seeking injunctive relief under the ESA.) Text

National Wildlife Federation v. Coleman, 529 F.2d 359 (5th Cir. 1976) (Conservation groups sought to enjoin construction of a highway due to the presence of a listed species.) Text

Sixth Circuit

Buckeye Forest Council v. U.S. Forest Serv., 378 F.Supp.2d 835 (S.D. Ohio 2005) (USFS was not required to undertake formal ESA consultation.) Text

Southern Appalachian Biodiversity Project v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., 181 F.Supp.2d 883 (E.D. Tenn. 2001) (Plaintiff was entitled to injunction requiring designation of critical habitat for certain species.) Text

Kentucky Heartwood, Inc. v. Worthington, 125 F.Supp.2d 839 (E.D. Ky. 2000) (To determine whether injunctive relief shall issue under the ESA, the only test is whether there has been a violation of the ESA.) Text


Eighth Circuit

Kuehl v. Sellner, 887 F.3d 845 (8th Cir. 2018) (Upholding the district court conclusion that zookeepers treatment of endangered lemurs and tigers violated the ESA.) Text

Nat’l Wildlife Fed’n v. Harvey, 574 F.Supp.2d 934 (E.D. Ark. 2008) (FWS had sufficiently met its consultation requirements under the ESA.) Text

Missour ex rel. Nixon v. Sec’y of Interior, 158 F.Supp.2d 984 (W.D. Mo. 2001) (Limitations period was not tolled by agencies’ failure to determine endangered species’ critical habitat.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Administrator, EPA, 882 F.2d 1294 (8th Cir. 1989) (Plaintiffs could maintain a suit under the citizen suit provision of the ESA even if a successful suit would cancel a pesticide registration.) Text

Sierra Club v. Clark, 755 F.2d 608 (8th Cir. 1985) (The ESA limits the discretion of the Secretary of Interior to allow public sport hunting of threatened species.) Text

Ninth Circuit

Yurok Tribe v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, 231 F.Supp.3d 450 (N.D. Cal. 2017) (Plaintiffs established that listed Coho salmon faced irreparable harm as result of increased infection rates.) Text

Natural Resources Defense Council v. Norton, 236 F.Supp.3d 1198 (E.D. Cal. 2017) (Bureau of Reclamation lacked sufficient control to give rise to obligation to initiate ESA consultation.) Text

Pacificans for a Scenic Coast v. California Dept. of Transp., 204 F.Supp.3d 1075 (N.D. Cal. 2016) (Agency had to reinitiate ESA consultation when it learned of increased risk to listed species.) Text

Conservation Congress v. Finley, 774 F.3d 611 (9th Cir. 2014) (USFS appropriately considered recovery plan information in assessing logging project’s potential effects on northern spotted owl.) Text

Western Watersheds Project v. Kraayenbrink, 632 F.3d 472 (9th Cir. 2011) (BLM violated the ESA by failing to consult with FWS before approving revisions to nationwide grazing regulations.) Text

Oregon Natural Desert Ass’n v. Tidwell, 716 F.Supp.2d 982 (D. Or. 2010) (Plaintiffs challenge USFS authorization of grazing permits under the ESA.) Text

Wild Fish Conservancy v. Salazar, 628 F.3d 513 (9th Cir. 2010) (Limiting analysis in biological opinion was arbitrary.) Text

Pacific Coast Fed’n of Fishermen’s Association v. Gutierrez, 606 F.Supp.2d 1122 (E.D. Cal. 2009) (There was a reasonable likelihood that the project would adversely impact endangered salmonid species.) Text

Oregon Natural Resources Council v. Allen, 476 F.3d 1031 (9th Cir. 2007) (Withdrawal of a portion of the Biological Opinion rendered the incidental take statement invalid.) Text

Natural Resources Defense Council v. Kempthorne, 506 F.Supp.2d 322 (E.D. Cal. 2007) (Biological opinion regarding impacts on Delta smelt did not use best scientific information available.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Flowers, 414 F.3d 1066 (9th Cir. 2005) (Army Corps of Engineers’ decision not to consult with FWS was reasonable.) Text

San Luis v. Badgley, 136 F.Supp.2d 1136 (E.D. Cal. 2000) (Listing of fish under the ESA was arbitrary and capricious.) Text

Greenpeace Found. v. Mineta, 122 F.Supp.2d 1123 (D. Haw. 2000) (Lobster fishery harmed endangered Hawaiian monk seals.) Text

Environmental Defense Center v. Babbitt, 73 F.3d 867 (9th Cir. 1995) (Plaintiffs sought to compel final determination on proposed rule to list red-legged frog under ESA.) Text

Palila v. Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources, 639 F.2d 495 (9th Cir. 1981) (Defendant’s action constituted a taking within the meaning of the ESA.) Text

Tenth Circuit

Rocky Mountain Wild v. Walsh, 216 F.Supp.3d 1234 (D. Colo. 2016) (Decision not to list wildflowers as threatened under the ESA based on a 15-year conservation agreement was arbitrary and capricious.) Text

WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. E.P.A., 759 F.3d 1196 (10th Cir. 2014) (EPA had no duty to consult with FWS about effect of emissions on endangered fish near power plant.) Text

Center for Native Ecosystems v. Salazar, 711 F.Supp.2d 1267 (D. Colo. 2010) (Supplementation of administrative record to include Bas and BiOps was warranted in ESA case.) Text

Center for Native Ecosystems v. Cables, 509 F.3d 1310 (10th Cir. 2007) (USFS adequately consulted with FWS on effect of grazing on listed species.) Text

Forest Guardians v. Forsgren, 478 F.3d 1149 (10th Cir. 2007) (USFS had no duty under ESA to consult with FWS regarding Land and Resource Management Plan.) Text

Center for Biological Diversity v. Norton, 163 F.Supp.2d 1297 (D. N.M. 2001) (Secretary of Interior could be required to issue 12-month finding on petition to list within 30 days.) Text

Middle Rio Grande Conservancy Dist. V. Babbitt, 206 F.Supp.2d 1156 (D. N.M. 2000) (Final rule designating critical habitat for Rio Grande silvery minnow was invalidated.) Text

Wyoming Farm Bureau Fed’n v. Babbitt, 199 F.3d 1224 (10th Cir. 2000) (Regulation allowing reintroduced wolves to mingle with isolated existing wolves did not violate ESA.) Text

Forest Guardians v. Babbitt, 174 F.3d 1178 (10th Cir. 1999) (Action to compel designation of critical habitat for Rio Grande silvery minnow.) Text

New Mexico Cattle Growers Ass’n v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serv., 81 F.Supp.2d 1141 (D. N.M. 1999) (Designation of critical habitat for southwestern willow flycatcher comported with the ESA.) Text

Biodiversity Legal Found. v. Babbitt, 146 F.3d 1249 (10th Cir. 1998) (Action seeking to enforce the deadline on petition to list Columbian sharp-tailed grouse under the ESA.) Text

Eleventh Circuit

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, Inc. v. Miami Seaquarium, 879 F.3d 1142 (11th Cir. 2018) (The conditions for killer whales at defendant’s animal park did not violate the ESA.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Dept. of Navy, 733 F.3d 1106 (11th Cir. 2013) (The ESA did not require NMFS to include an incidental take statement for a portion of its biological opinion.) Text

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida v. U.S., 566 F.3d 1257 (11th Cir. 2009) (Negative impacts to designated critical habitat do not have to be permanent to be considered “adverse modification.”) Text

Florida Key Deer v. Paulison, 522 F.3d 1133 (11th Cir. 2008) (FEMA has discretion to administer the National Flood Insurance Program so far as it is bound by the ESA.) Text

Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Coal. v. Kempthorne, 477 F.3d 1250 (11th Cir. 2007) (Alabama sturgeon was correctly listed as endangered.) Text

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida v. U.S., 420 F.Supp.2d 1342 (S.D. Fla. 2006) (Army Corps of Engineers did not violate the ESA while implementing changes to water control plan for purpose of protecting designated critical habitat.) Text

Sierra Club v. Norton, 313 F.Supp.2d 1291 (S.D. Ala. 2004) (FWS’s decision as to when to respond to a petition to alter critical habitat was discretionary.) Text

Sierra Club v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 295 F.3d 1209 (11th Cir. 2002) (Corps of Engineers complied with the ESA in issuing a highway construction permit.) Text

Loggerhead Turtle v. County Council of Volusia County, Fla., 120 F.Supp.2d 1005 (M.D. Fla. 2000) (Modification of incidental take permit did not require further consultation under the ESA.) Text

Fund for Animals, Inc. v. Rice, 85 F.3d 535 (11th Cir. 1996) (FWS’s finding of “no jeopardy” for a project’s effect on the Florida Panther was reasonable.) Text

U.S. v. Billie, 667 F.Supp. 1485 (S.D. Fla. 1987) (ESA applied to hunting activity on Seminole Indian reservation.) Text

DC Circuit

Humane Soc’y of the U.S. v. Zinke, 865 F.3d 585 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (FWS’s designation of a distinct population segment of grey wolf was arbitrary and capricious.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Zinke, 849 F.3d 1077 (D.C. Cir. 2017) (Upholding FWS rule to remove the gray wolf in Wyoming from the endangered species list.) Text

Humane Soc’y of the U.S. v. Pritzker, 75 F.Supp.3d 1 (D. D.C. 2014) (NMFS applied incorrect evidentiary standards when denying petition to list the porbeagle shark.) Text

In re Polar Bear Endangered Species Act List and Section 4(d) Rule Litigation, 709 F.3d 1 (D.C. Cir. 2013) (Upholding FWS’s decision to list the polar bear under the ESA.) Text

Colorado River Cutthroat Trout v. Salazar, 898 F.Supp.2d 191 (D. D.C. 2012) (FWS’s finding that the listing of cutthroat trout under the ESA was “unwarranted” was reasonable.) Text

Conservation Force v. Salazar, 699 F.3d 538 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (FWS’s delay in granting permits was not a violation of the ESA.) Text

Friends of Blackwater v. Salazar, 691 F.3d 428 (D.C. Cir. 2012) (Recovery plan did not bar FWS from delisting a species of flying squirrel.) Text

Alaska v. Lubchenco, 825 F.Supp.2d 209 (D. D.C. 2011) (NMFS’s decision to list the Cook Inlet beluga whale under the ESA was reasonable.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Gutierrez, 532 F.3d 913 (D.C. Cir. 2008) (NMFS’s denial of rulemaking petition for emergency regulations to protect listed Right whales was not arbitrary and capricious.) Text

American Wildlands v. Kempthorne, 530 F.3d 991 (D. D.C. 2008) (FWS’s decision to include a morphologically conforming fish into the westslope cutthroat trout population when making listing determination was reasonable.) Text

Colorado River Cutthroat Trout v. Dirk Kempthorne, 448 F.Supp.2d 170 (D. D.C. 2006) (FWS did not properly review a petition to list the Colorado River cutthroat trout.) Text

Biodiversity Legal Foundation v. Norton, 285 F.Supp.2d 1 (D. D.C. 2003) (FWS delay in designating critical habitat was unreasonable.) Text

American Rivers v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 271 F.Supp.2d 230 (D. D.C. 2003) (Plaintiffs were awarded a preliminary injunction barring Corps of Engineers’ implementation of river basin plan due to potential ESA violations.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 257 F.Supp.2d 53 (D. D.C. 2003) (Duty to consult under ESA does not extend to nondiscretionary operations affecting extra-territorial species.) Text

American Wildlands v. Norton, 193 F.Supp.2d 244 (D. D.C. 2002) (FWS’s decision not to list the westslope trout under the ESA was unreasonable.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Babbitt, 130 F.Supp.2d (D. D.C. 2001) (Biological opinions prepared for the Sonoran pronghorn did not meet ESA requirements.) Text

Southwest Center for Biological Diversity v. Babbitt, 215 F.3d 58 (D.C. Cir. 2000) (FWS was not required to conduct a population study when determining whether to list the goshawk.) Text

Defenders of Wildlife v. Babbitt, 958 F.Supp. 670 (D. D.C. 1997) (Challenge to FWS’s refual to issue a decision on listing the Canada lynx under the ESA.) Text

Building Industry Ass’n of Superior California v. Babbitt, 979 F.Supp. 893 (D. D.C. 1997) (Challenge to FWS’s decision to list fairy shrimp under the ESA.) Text

Fund for Animals v. Babbitt, 903 F.Supp. 96 (D. D.C. 1995) (Challenge to FWS’s recovery plan for the grizzly bear.) Text

Carlton v. Babbitt, 900 F.Supp. 526 (D. D.C. 1995) (Challenge to FWS’s decision not to reclassify the grizzly bear population from “threatened” to “endangered.”) Text

Endangered Species Comm. Of Bldg. Indus. Ass’n of S. California v. Babbitt, 852 F.Supp. 32 (D. D.C. 1994) (FWS required to make raw data underlying the scientific report the Service relied on to make a listing decision available to the public.) Text

City of Las Vegas v. Lujan, 891 F.2d 927 (D.C. Cir. 1989) (Challenge to Secretary of Interior’s decision to make an emergency listing for the Mojave Desert population of the desert tortoise.) Text


Alaska Ctr. For Env’t v. Rue, 95 P.3d 924 (Alaska 2004) (Decision not to list Cook Inlet beluga whale under the ESA was supported by sufficient evidence.) Text


Center for Biological Diversity v. Fish & Game Com., 166 Cal.App.4th 597 (2008) (State court would not take into account an order requiring the California tiger salamander to be listed under the federal ESA when considering whether it should be listed under the state ESA.) Text


Animal Rights Front, Inc. v. Jacques, 88 Conn.App. 358 (2005) (Modification of rattlesnake habitat was not unreasonable.) Text


Cent. Platte Nat. Res. Dist. V. Fremont, 549 N.W.2d 112 (1996) (Director could not issue permits that would result in the jeopardy of a species listed under the ESA.) Text

New Jersey

ZRB, LLC v. New Jersey Dept. of Envt. Prot., Land Use Regulation, 959 A.2d 866 (App. Div. 2008) (Department of Environmental Protection was authorized to protect listed species.) Text


Cty. of Morrow v. Dep’t of Fish & Wildlife, 37 P.3d 180 (2001) (Fish & Wildlife Commission was not required to survey the entire habitat of a species of squirrel before declaring it endangered.) Text


Dunn v. Public Utility Com’n  of Texas, 246 S.W.3d 788 (2008) (Evidence supported a finding that the proposed route for a power line did not cross the habitat of a listed species.) Text