State of Idaho's slickspot peppergrass lawsuit, filed against federal government in D.D.C., transferred to Idaho
Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter v. Ken Salazar, Civil Case No. 09-2156(RJL), 718 F.SUPP.2D 62 (D.D.C., June 19, 2010).
SUMMARY: Governor, state Office of Species Conservation, and others brought action against various federal government officials and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service challenging the Service's decision to list slickspot peppergrass as a threatened species through its range under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Defendants moved to transfer venue to the District of Idaho. The District Court, Richard J. Leon, J., held that: (1) venue would be proper in the District of Idaho, and (2) interests of justice and convenience of the parties and witnesses warranted transfer.
EXCERPT: the interests of justice strongly favor transfer to Idaho. How so? First, the plaintiffs' choice of forum is entitled to less deference because the District of Columbia is not their home forum. See Shawnee Tribe v. United States, 298 F.Supp.2d 21, 24 (D.D.C.2002). Second, the plaintiffs' forum choice has no meaningful ties to the controversy and no particular interest in the parties or subject matter. See McGovern v. Burrus, 407 F.Supp.2d 26, 28 (D.D.C.2005). Indeed, the only connection to the District of Columbia is the fact that the Department of the Interior, headquartered in this District, has ultimate responsibility for the administration of the ESA. But as the record makes clear, the role played by officials in Washington was minor, and the Secretary did not have any special involvement in the listing decision. Final Rule, 74 Fed. Reg. at 52,063 (stating that the “primary authors of this document are staff members of the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Office”). In fact, the decision at issue here was drafted mainly by Service staff in Boise, as were the two previous decision on the status of the slickspot peppergrass. ... The majority of the public comments the Service received came from the residents of Idaho, and those from the regulated community impacted by the listing are also located in Idaho. ... In short, this action's ties to the District of Columbia are tenuous, at best, and any impact of the listing determination is completely localized to Idaho: all potential activities that may affect the slickspot peppergrass are located in Idaho...
Slickspot peppergrass, Lepidium papilliferum, is an herbaceous annual or biennial plant endemic to the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem in southwestern Idaho. See Listing Lepidium papilliferum (Slickspot Pepper-rass) as a Threatened Species Throughout Its Range (“Final Rule”), 74 Fed. Reg. 52,014, 52,015 (Oct. 8, 2009) (codified at 50 C.F.R. § 17.12 (2010)). Specifically, slickspot peppergrass is found in the Boise Foothills, Snake River Plain, and the Owyhee Plateau. See id. at 52,201. There is no evidence that the species has “ever been found anywhere outside of its present range in southwestern Idaho.” Id. at 52,022. Photo by Bureau of Land Management available at OwyheeInitiative.org