Court tosses Bush-era rule on fire-management consultations

From E&E News:
I haven’t dug into this but sounds interesting. I just wonder about the first sentence “considering the matter for six years”. I also have to wonder about every rule being tied to its President. So the rule that will be done for objections based on the Approps bill will be an “Obama-era rule” ;?

Court tosses Bush-era rule on fire-management consultations

After considering the matter for six years, a federal court yesterday threw out a George W. Bush administration rule that streamlined the consultation required by the Endangered Species Act in the course of preparing fire management plans.

U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler of the District of Columbia, who apologized in a footnote for taking so long, reversed her own 2006 ruling that had upheld the rule.

She took a second look at the request of environmental groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, which had challenged the 2003 rule in part because of the potential impact on the lynx, which is listed as a threatened species. The groups said Kessler had been too deferential to the Bush administration in upholding the rule.

In yesterday’s ruling, Kessler belatedly agreed with the challengers that the rule, which restricted consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists, was “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.

At issue was the Bush administration’s initial rationale for the streamlined rule, namely that it would reduce existing delays in enacting fire plans, thereby lessening the prospect of serious fires.

Kessler ruled that this purported justification is “not supported by the evidence in the record.”

More recently, the Fish and Wildlife Service has changed its position. Now it says the new rule merely has the possibility of speeding up the drafting of future fire plans, Kessler noted.

The government had claimed the case was now moot because it has changed its approach, but Kessler rejected that contention.

Eric Glitzenstein, a lawyer at Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal who represented the environmental groups, said today that “the purported rationale for the rule never made any sense and needlessly placed listed species at risk.”

The Justice Department declined to comment.

Here’s a link to the decision.

One Comment

  1. This would be a victory for those of us who don’t like the Let-Burn fire program, proven to be illegal, destructive and both fiscally and ecologically costly. “More analysis is needed”, and irreplaceable habitats shouldn’t be allowed to burn. We need formal, NEPA-driven plans, with full transparent collaboration.

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