Court Holds that USDA Failed to Conserve Highly Endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatchers and Their Critical Habitat

After years of litigation, the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada ruled yesterday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) violated the Endangered Species Act by failing to adopt any conservation program to conserve the highly imperiled southwestern willow flycatcher and its critical habitat.  We filed suit on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity and Maricopa Audubon Society after USDA released hundreds of thousands of non-native, invasive beetles throughout the Southwest to defoliate saltcedar trees that provide nesting habitat to flycatchers, but when beetles decimated flycatcher habitat USDA merely terminated its program without implementing any mitigation measures to ameliorate the ongoing and long-lasting effects of its beetle release program.  On those facts, the court held that “USDA has not satisfied its ongoing obligations under [Endangered Species Act section] 7(a)(1) by simply terminating the beetle program found to adversely affect the flycatcher.”  USDA must now timely cure this major legal violation by adopting meaningful conservation measures to benefit this species and its habitat before it is driven to extinction.  The ruling can be found here.