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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.

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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.

Biolgocial opinions, with subsequent effects on pesticides, can be challenged, says U.S. Circuit Court


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DOW AGROSCIENCES LLC, v. NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES SERVICE, No. 09-1968, 2011 WL 711855 (4th Cir., Mar. 2, 2011).
The question presented by this appeal is whether a “biological opinion” issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) pursuant to the Fisheries Service's consulting role under the Endangered Species Act is subject to judicial review in the district court under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 704. The Fisheries Service, which provided the biological opinion to the EPA as part of the EPA's process of reregistering for sale and use the insecticides chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion, concluded that the insecticides will destroy or harm Pacific salmonids and their habitat....  In this appeal from the district court's dismissal order, we conclude that, under Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154 (1997), the Fisheries Service's biological opinion is a final agency action and that deferring judicial review of the biological opinion until the EPA acts on reregistration of the insecticides would not provide the manufacturers adequate review of the biological opinion. Accordingly, we conclude that the Fisheries Service's biological opinion is judicially reviewable under § 704 of the APA. We reverse and remand for further proceedings in the district court.

EXCERPT RE: CONDITIONS OF THE BIOP. The final BiOp concluded that chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion would jeopardize numerous salmonid species and adversely affect critical habitat for them. Specifically, it found that the exposure to these pesticides will kill salmonids and, even at low exposure levels, will reduce salmonid growth, reduce the availability of prey, and impair salmonids' swimming and olfactory senses. In short, the Fisheries Service's BiOp concluded that reregistration of the insecticides would jeopardize the survival of 27 of 28 listed salmonid species and adversely affect the critical habitat of 25 of the 26 species for which critical habitat had been designated. The BiOp, however, recommended a “reasonable and prudent alternative” to the current registrations by (1) requiring setbacks for the application of insecticides that would be 500 feet away from salmonid habitats for ground applications and 1,000 feet for aerial application; (2) limiting application in high wind; (3) requiring a 20-foot strip of vegetation near surface waters connected to salmonid habitats; (4) requiring regular reports concerning fish mortality; and (5) limiting application when soil moisture is, or is likely to become, high. The BiOp also issued an “Incidental Take Statement” requiring that the EPA implement a Fisheries Service approved effectiveness monitoring plan.

A court ruling between Washington Toxics Coalition and the Environmental Protection Agency requires vendors to post warning signs on all products containing seven pesticides that pose threats to salmonids (for more information about this case go to WATER Institute's Salmon Safe Pesticide Awareness Campaign supports retailers in upholding this ruling by posting the required hazard signs and invite them to consider selling less harmful alternatives.

KEITHINKING: The court offered six detailed points in furtherance of its reasoning that the biop was indeed final agency action.  This case will probably provide a template for any future litigation involving the finality of a biological opinion (and perhaps other federal actions too):
  • First, the BiOp has immediate and independent legal consequences that cannot be changed on later review of the EPA's action on reregistration, even if the EPA relies on the BiOp…
  • Second, if the EPA were to choose not to rely on the Fisheries Service's BiOp, then the BiOp would not be subject to any review in a judicial proceeding challenging the FIFRA reregistration order. Yet, the BiOp would still exist, having significant legal consequences, as we have noted, because it makes final findings and defines the safe harbor from civil and criminal liability…
  • Third, when a court of appeals reviews the EPA's reliance on a BiOp issued by the Fisheries Service, the court's review would not be the same as if the district court were to review the BiOp itself directly under the APA…
  • Fourth, if the EPA were to choose to follow the Fisheries Service's BiOp, any challenge to the EPA's reliance on the BiOp on judicial review could not itself cause the EPA to alter the BiOp…
  • Fifth, the plain language of FIFRA's judicial review provisions does not contain “clear and convincing evidence” that Congress intended FIFRA's judicial review provisions to govern review of a BiOp issued by a different agency-the Fisheries Service, which is within the Department of Commerce.
See also Living on Earth and ESAblawg, and Washington State University.


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.

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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