Special to the
Alabama Attorney Gen. Steve Marshall applauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous decision Tuesday in favor of a critical habitat lawsuit supported by Alabama and 17 other states. The high court decided 8-0 that the federal government cannot designate land as critical habitat for an endangered species that does not and cannot live on the land.
“Today’s decision is a victory for fairness and common sense and a loss for overreaching federal bureaucrats,” Marshall said.
“At issue is the question of whether the federal government, acting under the authority of the Endangered Species Act, could extend the reach of a critical habitat beyond the area currently occupied by a species at risk. Under President Obama, the federal government vastly expanded the definition of what constitutes a critical habitat, going even beyond the boundaries of what is considered habitable for an endangered species to include areas that may never be inhabitable by that species.
“This unprecedented action would bestow upon the federal government the power to claim essentially any land as critical habitat for practically any endangered species. Given the potential impact of such a federal expansion over Alabama’s agriculture, timber and mining industries, it was vital that we oppose this federal land grab all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Marshall added.
In its decision in Weyerhaeuser Company v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Supreme Court held that “Only the ‘habitat’ of the endangered species is eligible for designation as critical habitat. Even if an area otherwise meets the statutory definition of unoccupied critical habitat because the Secretary finds the area essential for the conservation of the species, [the law] does not authorize the Secretary to designate the area as critical habitat unless it is also habitat for the species.”
On Aug 15, 2017, Attorney General Marshall led 17 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a prior decision by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld the ability of the federal government to expand critical habitat areas. Marshall and the states further argued that the federal court ruling actually violates the Endangered Species Act’s own limitations on the designation of unoccupied land as critical habitat.