SW Legal studies in Business

Budget Shortfall Does Not Excuse Non-Compliance with Endangered Species Act Requirements
Description Court ordered the Secretary of Interior to publish a final endangered specie listing finding within thirty days. The finding had gone beyond the mandated twelve months because of inadequate budget at the agency to complete its work properly. The court will enforce the law as it is written, it is up to Congress to amend the law or change the budget of the agency.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words Endangered Species Act; Listing Requirements; Budget
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts On January 28, 1999, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) received a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) to list the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly as endangered with critical habitat. Under the Endangered Species Act, the Secretary of Interior has twelve months in which to issue a finding on a petition. On December 27, 1999, FWS concluded that listing "may be warranted." While a draft report had been prepared, the final finding was not published. The CBD filed suit against the Secretary of Interior for declaratory and injunctive relief, arguing that the Secretary violated the requirement by not issuing the finding report within twelve months. The Secretary responded that because of budget cuts at the Department of Interior, she should have more time to complete the finding.

Plaintiff's motion granted. The Secretary will publish a twelve-month finding within thirty days in the Federal Register. The Secretary argued that publishing in a timely manner is not possible because of a budget crisis caused by judicially-imposed deadlines in other cases. The budget of the agency is not adequate to do all listing work required. Due to inadequate budget, the FWS has violated the ESA on numerous occasions. The solution to this problem lies with Congress since the mandate of the law is clear. The twelve-month finding will be published within thirty days.

Citation Center for Biological Diversity v. Norton, 163 F.Supp.2d 1297 (D. N.M., 2001)

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