November 27 decision in Weyerhaeuser v. US Fish and Wildlife requires that habitat be present for Critical Habitat Designation.
The case concerns about 1,500 acres in Louisiana that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated as a critical habitat for the endangered dusky tree frog. Timber company Weyerhaeuser and private landowners argued that the designation should be lifted since the species didn’t currently live on the land and could not live on the land without significant changes to the forest canopy. In what was widely considered a victory for landowners, The Supreme Court ruled unanimously 8-0 (Justice Brett Kavanaugh was not yet seated when oral arguments were heard) to send the case back to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to consider whether the land could even be considered a “habitat” before evaluating whether it could be considered a “critical habitat.” The Court also noted that the economic burden on landowners should be balanced in the decision, and ruled that Fish and Wildlife designations of private land are subject to judicial review.
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