The Federal District Court in Washington, D.C. has granted Smith Currie's motion to intervene on behalf of a coalition of businesses in a case brought by the Center for Biological Diversity challenging the level of protection for the Northern Long-eared Bat, a species recently listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Typically, when a species is granted protection under the ESA the federal government immediately imposes stringent prohibitions on activities that it believes may harm the species. For the bat, however, the government provided limited, temporary exceptions for tree removal, such as clearing rights-of-way and harvesting timber. The exemptions apply at times when those activities are unlikely to affect the bat, while at other times restrictions remain in effect. The commonsense exceptions were provided because none of the tree removal activities were found to be responsible for the listing of the bat; rather, the universally acknowledged cause of the species' decline is a fungal disease spread among the bats during hibernation.
Dissatisfied that the government provided any exceptions, environmental activists filed suit asking the court to strike down the exceptions on technical grounds. Although the temporary exceptions for tree removal are far from perfect, they are preferable to the draconian restrictions that would apply to tree removal activities if plaintiffs were successful.
By participating in the case, intervenors will be in a position to ensure their voices will be heard, both in court and as the government continues its final rulemaking as to any future limitations on tree removal.