Endangered Species Act and other Wildlife Protection Statutes

Steptoe is nationally recognized for its expertise on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and other wildlife protection statutes, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), the Bald and Golden Eagle Act (BGEPA), and the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). We have a thorough knowledge of this complex and ever-developing area of law, including lawyers who previously handled wildlife issues as senior officials for the Department of Interior.

Our lawyers benefit from the expertise and relationships developed from years of working with federal agencies on ESA issues and related matters, including the US Army Corps of Engineers, Surface Transportation Board (STB), National Marine Fisheries Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Department of State, US Coast Guard, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and Department of Energy.  

We handle a wide range of issues under the wildlife protection statutes, including:

  • ESA Section 7 consultation for federal actions, including biological opinions, incidental take statements, and Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs)
  • ESA Section 10 consultation for private actions, including the development of habitat conservation plans and incidental take permits
  • ESA listing process for threatened or endangered species and the designation of critical habitat
  • Compliance strategies and MOU negotiations for the MBTA and BGEPA, including avian protection plans
  • Intervening to defend permit decisions and other agency actions in federal court actions challenging a federal agency’s compliance with the ESA

The following are some representative ESA and wildlife matters that Steptoe lawyers have handled:

  • Assisted a power company with its compliance program under the MBTA and BGEPA for a transmission line
  • In Medina County Environmental Action Association v. Surface Transportation Board, 602 F.3d 687 (5th. Cir. 2010), served as an intervener  on behalf of the applicant, and successfully defended the STB’s approval of a railroad from an ESA challenge before the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which upheld the agency decision, ruling that ESA requirements had been met
  • Represent a trade association client as an intervener in an ESA challenge to multiple pesticide registration decisions issued by the US EPA under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA)
  • Assist a client with complex ESA and MBTA compliance strategies and agency negotiations for a lengthy pipeline project involving multiple species and multiple agencies
  • Represent a client in a federal district court action defending against a challenge to the biological opinion issued by the USFWS for a 600- mile domestic oil pipeline – Steptoe lawyers successfully defeated efforts to enjoin construction of the pipeline pending the outcome of the litigation