Endangered Species & Wildlife Protection

Wildlife protection laws have become a weapon of choice for opponents of even the most carefully considered private, commercial, and public development projects. In this litigious atmosphere, landowners, developers, trade associations, and state and local governments need legal counsel that can help them achieve sensible, sustainable growth.

From Washington, D.C., to western venues, the lawyers  in Crowell & Moring's wildlife practice are widely respected for their knowledge, experience, and high-quality client service. Beginning in the 1980s, we were among the first legal teams to recognize the potential for misuse of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) against public and private projects and business initiatives. We have advocated on behalf of regulated-industry interests in the U.S. Supreme Court's last three ESA cases: National Association of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife, 549 U.S. 1105 (2007); Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154 (1997); and Babbitt v. Sweet Home, 515 U.S. 687 (1995).

Our clients include electric utilities, oil and gas companies (both onshore and offshore projects), mining companies, large landowners, state and local governments, and members of the agricultural, forest products, and pesticide sectors. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Energy has consulted the firm on wildlife and all other environmental matters associated with offshore wind energy production.

As counselors, we advise clients on compliance with the full range of wildlife and natural resource laws and regulations that affect existing and proposed economic activities. In addition to ESA matters, we advise major corporations on issues involving the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). We frequently prepare comments for clients on rulemaking and policy issues under these statutes. We advise clients on all aspects of the ESA, including preparing comments opposing the ESA section 4 listing of particular species and opposing broad critical habitat designations; advising on ESA section 7 consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service on federal permits and other actions; and addressing allegations of ESA section 9 "take" of wildlife.

When disputes arise with ESA citizen suit plaintiffs or government agencies, our highly skilled litigators draw on their years of experience before administrative agencies, federal and state trial courts, and courts of appeal. We most frequently represent defendants or intervenor-defendant trade associations in ESA citizen suits. Those suits run the gamut, from allegations that a federal agency has not fulfilled its consultation and jeopardy-avoidance duties under ESA section 7, to charges that a private or public entity is unlawfully "taking" members of a listed species. Finally, we counsel and, where necessary, defend mining, oil and gas, renewable energy, and other companies concerning newly heightened federal enforcement efforts, particularly under BGEPA and MBTA.