The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a bid by timber company Weyerhaeuser seeking to limit the federal government's power to designate private land as protected habitat for endangered species in a case involving the dusky gopher frog.
Apart from the land in St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, a little less than 5,000 acres in three counties of MS were also designated as habitat for the frog.
The case was filed by a lumber company in Louisiana that holds a long-term timber lease on the land that doesn't expire until 2043.
On the other side is the Trump administration, representing the Fish and Wildlife Service.
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Weyerhaeuser, however, has already lost twice in the courts.
"We now participate in 10 habitat-conservation plans, candidate conservation agreements and safe harbor agreements across our landscape, and we are in active negotiations to protect additional species", Weyerhaeuser spokeswoman Nancy Thompson said in a statement.
The agency's critical habitat designation covered the tract of 1,544 acres (about 625 hectares) of private land in Louisiana as well as almost 5,000 acres (about 2,025 hectares) in Mississippi. "We applaud the court for taking up this case, and we're hopeful the outcome will ensure that a designation can not be made to an area without firm evidence that it will support the endangered or threatened species in question". Federal courts have about three weeks of funding to operate after a shutdown. United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
"We're disappointed the Supreme Court took up the case but confident the justices will ultimately uphold this imperiled frog's habitat protections", said Collette Adkins, a Center for Biological Diversity attorney who works to conserve amphibians and reptiles. The Court's ruling will be an opportunity for it to clarify the reach and correct interpretation of the ESA.
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The dusky gopher frog was finally granted a recovery plan - the main tool for identifying actions necessary to save endangered species from extinction and eventually remove their protection - in 2016, after a 2012 notice of intent to sue filed by the Center and Gulf Restoration Network. Critical habitat is defined as an area essential to the conservation of a species that may require special management or protection.
The justices agreed Monday to review a lower-court ruling that upheld a federal agency's designation of the 1,500-acre tract owned by the Weyerhaeuser Co. and others as the only potential breeding ground outside MS for dusky gopher frogs.
Representatives for the USA solicitor general have not returned an email seeking comment. First, does the Endangered Species Act prohibit designation of private land as unoccupied critical habitat that is neither habitat nor essential to species conservation?
Edward B. Poitevent II is also quoted in the statement.
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