Environment | Law

Judge orders DOI to consider status of desert eagles in Arizona

A federal judge has ordered the Interior Department to consider placing the desert-nesting bald eagle back on the list of endangered species.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe and other tribes in Arizona said they weren't consulted or notified before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the desert eagle from the protections of the Endangered Species Act. In a November 30 decision, Judge David G. Campbell ruled that the agency failed to follow the law.

"Findings reached without appropriate notice, comment, and consultation should not become an agency’s presumptive decision," Campbell wrote. "Such a procedure flies in the face of the notice, comment, and consultations requirements of the law."

Campbell ordered FWS to take another look at information provided by tribes and by environmental groups. A decision is due by April 20, 2120.

"While Judge Campbell’s ruling is a victory, we know this is not the end of the attacks on the Eagle," Chairman Terry Rambler of the San Carlos Apache Tribe said in response. "We must continue the fight to protect the desert bald eagle, and all other plants and animals that are of cultural significance to Indian tribes in Arizona and around the country.”

Although the outcome favored the tribes and environmental groups, Campbell declined to determine whether the FWS violated any tribal consultation policies. He noted that the ESA does not include specific tribal consultation language.

"Congress and Interior have not imposed such consultation obligations in the ESA context, and it is not the proper role of the court to impose such obligations on its own," Campbell wrote in the decision.

District Court Decision:
San Carlos Apache Tribe v. Salazar (November 30, 2011)

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