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ESAblawg is an educational effort by Keith W. Rizzardi. Correspondence with this site does not create a lawyer-client relationship. Photos or links may be copyrighted (but used with permission, or as fair use). ESA blawg is published with a Creative Commons License.

Creative Commons License

florida gators... never threatened!

If you ain't a Gator, you should be! Alligators (and endangered crocs) are important indicator species atop their food chains, with sensitivity to pollution and pesticides akin to humans. See ESA blawg. Gator blood could be our pharmaceutical future, too. See ESA musing.


Follow the truth.

"This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." -- Thomas Jefferson to William Roscoe, December 27, 1820.


Thanks, Kevin.

KEVIN S. PETTITT helped found this blawg. A D.C.-based IT consultant specializing in Lotus Notes & Domino, he also maintains Lotus Guru blog.

ESA blawg is back... and then some.


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Hi everyone, is back.

2011 was challenging; an abundance of Endangered Species Act announcements and litigation, plus my own professional chaos, led to a hiatus.  But 2012 comes with a new professional path, and a new plan for ESA blawg. First, my path: I'm now a law professor and Assistant Director of the LLM Program in Environmental Sustainability at St. Thomas University School of Law, in Miami Gardens, FL.  In addition, I was recently elected Chair of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee, and I am serving as a consultant on administrative and environmental law issues to Jones Foster Johnston & Stubbs, P.A. in West Palm Beach, FL.  Given these many hats, I needed to make ESAblawg a bit more contained.  So I've got a three part plan.  

1. Microblogging.  "Routine" items related to the Endangered Species Act, such as Federal Register announcements and many U.S. District Court case references, will be published on Twitter at #ESAlawyer  

2.  Delegating.  Law students at St. Thomas University are now working on, which will become a useful resource, not just on the ESA, but on other wildlife laws too.

3.  Focusing.  On, I intend to publish more in-depth material and monthly musings on the pro's, con's and realities of the Endangered Species Act.

And now, back to work...

Thanks for reading, still.


Sorry about the extended absence... back soon!


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Dear ESA blawg readers,

For many families, June marks the end of school for the kids. For me, it marked the end of work. Due to Florida's massive budget cuts and the effects on public servants, I am in the middle of a career change, so my blog suffered a temporary setback.

Although the content of ESA blawg slowed for a few weeks, I've engaged in some planning for the long term. Most notably, I am exploring potential partnerships with ARKive, the multimedia guide to the world's endangered species, and St. Thomas University in Miami, where the School of Law this year launched a new LLM program in Environmental Sustaintability.

Bottom line: ESA blawg will be back to form in July! Thanks for your patience.

Keith W. Rizzardi

P.S. Looking for a skilled lawyer to help with water, wildlife, marine resources or Endangered Species Act issues?  Please send a note to

Spamdexing threatens the dialogue, but feedback still welcome


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Dear Readers,

A special thank you to many of you who sent thoughtful comments over the past three years.  Unfortunately, too many people abused my open comment feature.  Due to spamdexing and other malicious posts, I decided to turn off the feature.   But please know, if you send useful comments to me by email, I will post them.  Thanks again for reading.



P.S.  If you have ideas about how to increase awareness of ESA blawg, please speak up.  (I remain frustrated by the rules on Wikipedia that prevent my efforts to include ESAblawg as an "additional link.")  

ESA blawg proud to be an ABA Blawg-100 nominee


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A reader recently sent me a note to let me know how much he appreciates this law blog, and he also told me that he nominated ESA blawg as one of the American Bar Association's Top 100 niche blawgs.  Now, I'm not trying to launch a campaign here (and in fact, the ABA specifically discourages spam and form nominations.)  But hey, if you think ESA blawg worthy of recognition, and, more importantly, if you think that the Endangered Species Act deserves some additional national TLC, then please, let the editors at the ABA know, and send in a nomination.  Thanks!

Endangered blogger


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ESAblawg continues to attract favorable attention, including a mention in Florida Trend.  Thanks to everyone for reading, and be sure to read some of the other blogs related to the Endangered Species Act that have recently been launched, including the Pacific Legal Foundation's PLF on ESA and Andrew Wetzler's Switchboard blog through the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Sorry, ya'll, been on vacation...


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Will post recent judicial decisions, and Federal Register announcements, tomorrow evening.

The lighter side of the ESA


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Introducing another feature on ESA blawg... humor.  Let's face it.  The ESA is a pretty dark topic.  Species on the brink of extinction, and periodic bad news.  So, whenever the darkness gets to you, consider embracing the ultimate human coping mechanism, and check out the cartoons and other links TBD in the lower right side column.  When you do, be sure to visit the University of Iowa Digital Library site on the editorial cartoons of pulitzer prize winner J.N. "Ding" Darling, an accomplished public servant and wildlife conservationist honored by a National Wildlife Refuge in Florida bearing his name.  See also prior ESA blawg (April 2, 2008).  Ding's cartoons are reproduced courtesy of the Ding Darling Wildlife Society.

"We do hope the wild flowers appreciate how ardently we love them."  Copyright owned by the Ding Darling Wildlife Society, and reproduced with permission from the University of Iowa Digital Library.

ESAblawg on Comcast Newsmakers


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ESAblawg recently earned news coverage from Comcast Newsmakers.  Watch for Spero Canton's interview with ESAblawg founder Keith W. Rizzardi in April 2008.

Why bother blawging...?


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So why do I bother blawging?  After all, pessimism gets the better of me sometimes, as I read the scary science and predictions related to climate change.   Maybe the oceans really are dying, as the Los Angeles Time reported today.  See, "Dead zones off Oregon and Washington likely tied to global warming,"  Sadly, as I've already acknowledged on these pages, as a result of these massive global changes, there may be little we can do to save some species.  See, "Has Climate Change Jeopardized the ESA?"  But in other cases, perhaps humanity really can make a difference.  

Photo of "School of Tuna" by Greenpeace, from Making Waves blog pages.
For a wonderful artistic depiction of dolphin tuna interactions, visit New York's American Museum of Natural History dioramas.

Maybe we can avoid the extinction of tuna , our important "chicken of the sea" -- and the dolphins that swim with them -- by learning lessons from cod.  See NOAA discussion of tuna-dolphin issues by Southwest Fisheries Science Center and see ENN article on learning lessons from cod.  

Maybe we can learn from our successes, such as the delisting of bald eagles and brown pelicans.  

Maybe we can learn from the passenger pigeon, doomed by conversion of forests to farmlands, and excessive hunting. (In 1878, in Michigan, 50,000 birds per day were killed for nearly five months!)

Maybe, by learning about what we are doing to our own environment, humanity will awaken, and work even harder to solve the problems we create.  

And maybe, just maybe, by blawging about the extinctions of the past, and the tragic extinctions that could soon occur, I can play a role in helping us to avoid needless extinctions of the future.  

There are no dodos, and no passenger pigeons left.  For the sake of my children, I'd like to avoid a future with no people.

Photo of a famous passenger pigeon named Martha, the last of her species, who died at 1 p.m. on September 1, 1914, at an astonishing age 29, in the
Cincinnati Zoological Garden.  From the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History (Martha is not on view.)  

ESAblawg gets review in


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From Seeing Green, with Christine Stapleton, on

Green Day: February 22, 2008, 08:30 AM

Forget how you feel about lawyers. Today, check out - “A legal blog promoting thoughtful discussion of the Endangered Species Act.”  This new blog is the brainbaby of Keith W. Rizzardi, a Florida Bar certified lawyer in administrative law who has put a heck of a lot of time and effort into his blog. You’ve got ESA 101, Federal ESA links, Case law, Wildlife laws, ESA reform, all kind of groovy links to Eco-morality sites and educational and historical info on the animals protected by the ESA.  Amazing stuff.

No trash talk at ESAblawg!


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"Garbage in, garbage out."  It a phrase often used by computer / IT geeks, but it applies equally to bloggers. (And they, too, are computer geeks!)  

Consider this phrase an important reminder to you, the reader.  If you've got useful comments, please make them.  If you've got resources, please send them.  After all, the analysis that goes out at this site is only as good as the information that comes in.

And, by the way, as you may have noticed, ESAblawg has evolved into a three-part exercise.  First, I try to track, excerpt, and summarize emerging caselaw. My goal is to post decisions, especially by the Circuit Courts, within two weeks of the filing date.  Second, I monitor Federal Register notices, and will endeavor to post those notices on an even more timely basis.  Finally, I offer my ESA musings, in which I wax poetic (or just rant) about whatever interesting ESA-related topics make the news.  And always, I try to find worthy links to accompany my postings.

Thanks for reading, but please, feel free to help out and participate in the dialogue!  Just remember, no dodos.

Oscar the Grouch, from muppet wiki

P.S.  Some of you may be wondering about the growing list of religion-related links in the right-side column.   I confess, I am a Christian, and I learned all about Noah's Ark as a child.  I also remember hiking with my Godfather, nature retreats with my youth group, and many other areas where my environmental and religious concerns overlapped.  Recently, I've witnessed the emergence of similar thinkers, from many, many religious perspectives.  Indeed, as report by the Christian Post noted in 2006, "an interfaith group of Evangelical Christian, Protestant and Jews launched a nationwide effort to raise awareness about the threat to the Endangered Species Act."  Thus, even though ESAblawg remains a legal site, discussing an important law, it seemed most appropriate for ESAblawg to acknowledge "natural law" too.

No Dodo! Welcome to ESA blawg.


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Dear ESAblawg visitor:

This site is not for dodo brains (although the non-lawyers might take issue with that claim.)  Instead, this site is dedicated to honest and thought-provoking discussion of the Endangered Species Act.  On the one hand, the ESA is a necessary and important law, committed to the preservation of endangered and threatened species.  See right side column: Reasons for the ESA. On the other hand, the history of ESA implementation reveals numerous and significant flaws.  See right side column: Reasons for ESA Reform.  

With the launch of this page (long-delayed by technical difficulties and a family-relocation!) visitors can keep track of the latest developments in ESA caselaw, Federal Register notices, and emerging news.  Of course, all of you who are experts (or not) in the ESA will have your own opinions and perspectives.  You are invited to share your (informed) opinions, and each blawg entry on this site includes opportunities for comments.  Also, if you have suggestions for page content or discussion topics, especially useful links and downloads, or noteworthy unpublished judicial decisions, please send an email to  

Just remember, no dodo's.  Thanks for joining the dialogue.


Keith W. Rizzardi

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Although I started adding regular content to this site in September 2007, the public launch of ESAblawg took place in January 2008.

P.S.  So you think that the Dodo bird was just a dumb flightless bird that proves Darwin's theory of evolution?  Guess again.  The dodo, like so many other species, is just another example of humankind impacting species, and eventually, causing its demise.  Maybe it's not evolution.  Maybe it's us.  Click here for the National Geographic story on the dodo.


Image remixed.  Original from Popular Natural History, J.G. Wood, 1885  


Keith Who?

Keith W. Rizzardi, a Florida lawyer, is board certified in State & Federal Administrative Practice. A law professor at St. Thomas University near Miami and Special Counsel at Jones Foster Johnston & Stubbs in West Palm Beach, he previously represented the U.S. Department of Justice and the South Florida Water Management District. A two-time Chair of The Florida Bar Government Lawyer Section, he currently serves as Chair of the Marine Fisheries Advisory Committee



The experience & skills discussed in links below were not reviewed or approved by The Florida Bar. The facts and circumstances of every case are different; each one must be independently evaluated by a lawyer and handled on its own merits. Cases and testimonials may not be representative of all clients’ experience with a lawyer. By clicking the links below, you acknowledge the disclaimer above.

View Keith Rizzardi's profile on LinkedIn View my profile on Avvo


16 U.S.C. §1531 et. seq.

"The Congress finds and declares that -

(1) various species of fish, wildlife, and plants in the United States have been rendered extinct as a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation;

(2) other species of fish, wildlife, and plants have been so depleted in numbers that they are in danger of or threatened with extinction;

(3) these species of fish, wildlife, and plants are of aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation and its people."

16 U.S.C. §1531(a)

The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is "to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved."

16 U.S.C. §1531(b)

Reasons for the ESA

1. ECOLOGICAL: Species have a role in the web of life. Who knows which missing link causes the collapse?

2. ECONOMICAL: Species have actual, inherent, and potential value -- some as food, others as tourist attractions. As Congress said, these species have "aesthetic, ecological, educational, historical, recreational, and scientific value to the Nation." 16 U.S.C. §1531(a).

3. MEDICAL: Although perhaps a subset of economics, medical reasons for the ESA deserve special note, because today's listed species could be tomorrow's cure for cancer.

4. MORAL: With each extinction, we take something from others. We must prevent "the tragedy of the commons."

5. THEOLOGICAL: Even the Bible instructed Noah to save God's creatures, male and female, two by two.

Reasons for ESA Reform

1. ECOSYSTEM (MIS)MANAGEMENT. The ESA encourages selective review of individual species needs, even though nature pits species needs against one another. Furthermore, the ESA's single-species focus detracts from efforts to achieve environmental restoration and ecosystem management.

2. SCIENTIFIC UNCERTAINTY: While the ESA requires consideration of the "best available science," sometimes the best is not enough, forcing decisions under great uncertainty. The ESA, however, is generally proscriptive, regulatory, and absolute; as a result, it insufficiently allows for adaptive management.

3. LITIGATION: ESA implementation is at the mercy of the attorneys. Cases involving one listed species can serve as a proxy for hidden agendas, especially land use disputes, and regardless of actual species needs, litigation and judicial orders set agency priorities. In the end, realistic solutions disappear amidst court-filings, fundraising, and rhetoric.

4. PRIVATE LANDS: Up to 80% of ESA-listed species habitat is on privately owned lands. While the ESA can place reasonable restrictions on private property rights, there are limits. But the best alternatives have limits too, such as Federal land acquisition and the highly controversial "God Squad" exemptions.

5. FUNDING: Protecting species is expensive, but resources appropriated by Congress are limited. An overburdened handful of federal agency biologists cannot keep pace with the ESA's procedural burdens, nor court-ordered deadlines (see #3 above). Provisions requiring agencies to pay attorney's fees to victorious litigators -- who challenge the hastily written documents prepared by overworked bureaucrats -- simply exacerbate the problem.

"Every species is part of an ecosystem, an expert specialist of its kind, tested relentlessly as it spreads its influence through the food web. To remove it is to entrain changes in other species, raising the populations of some, reducing or even extinguishing others, risking a downward spiral of the larger assemblage." An insect with no apparent commercial value may be the favorite meal of a spider whose venom will soon emerge as a powerful and profitable anesthetic agent. That spider may in turn be the dietary staple of a brightly colored bird that people, who are notoriously biased against creepy crawlers and in favor of winsome winged wonders, will travel to see as tourists. Faced with the prospect that the loss of any one species could trigger the decline of an entire ecosystem, destroying a trove of natural and commercial treasures, it was rational for Congress to choose to protect them all. -- Alabama-Tombigbee Rivers Coalition v. Kempthorne, 477 F.3d 1250, 1274-75 (11th Cir.2007), cert. denied, 128 S.Ct. 8775 (2008), quoting Edward O. Wilson, The Diversity of Life 308 (1992).

"This case presents a critical conflict between dual legislative purposes, providing water service for agricultural, domestic, and industrial use, versus enhancing environmental protection for fish species whose habitat is maintained in rivers, estuaries, canals, and other waterways that comprise the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta… This case involves both harm to threatened species and to humans and their environment. Congress has not nor does TVA v. Hill elevate species protection over the health and safety of humans... No party has suggested that humans and their environment are less deserving of protection than the species. Until Defendant Agencies have complied with the law, some injunctive relief pending NEPA compliance may be appropriate, so long as it will not further jeopardize the species or their habitat." -- The Consolidated Delta Smelt Cases, 2010 WL 2195960 (E.D.Cal., May 27, 2010)(Judge Wanger)(addressing the need for further consideration of the human consequences of ESA compliance).

Notable quotables

"A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society." – Thomas Jefferson (1792)


"The destruction of the wild pigeon and the Carolina parakeet has meant a loss as sad as if the Catskills or Palisades were taken away. When I hear of the destruction of a species, I feel as if all the works of some great writer had perished."


"Conservation means development as much as it does protection. I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land; but I do not recognize the right to waste them, or to rob, by wasteful means, the generations that come after us." – Theodore Roosevelt (Aug. 31, 1910)

Noah's orders

GENESIS, Chapter 6: [v 20] "Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you, to keep them alive. [v 21] Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them."

GENESIS, Chapter 9: [v12] "And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations"

"The power of God is present at all places, even in the tiniest leaf … God is currently and personally present in the wilderness, in the garden, and in the field." – MARTIN LUTHER