Document Type

Case Note


In its March 2001 decision, Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed a decision of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which had granted the defendant U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) summary judgment. The Court of Appeals held that the Service's decision to not designate "critical habitat" was arbitrary and capricious. The Fifth Circuit found that much of the Service's decision was based on a regulation that conflicted with the provisions of the Endangered Species Act. That regulation required consultation only when concerns for both recovery and survival of a threatened species were raised, while the Endangered Species Act required consultation if either recovery or survival was at issue. This Note examines the Fifth Circuit's decision in Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and determines that the Fifth Circuit reached the correct conclusion in light of the intentions underlying the Endangered Species Act. A review of recent court decisions show that courts are currently refusing to defer to agency decisions concerning critical habitat designations, and instead are enforcing the intentions of Congress by holding that critical habitat designations are the rule, not the exception.



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