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Illegal Endangered Species Act Regulation Makes Washington Ranchers a Threatened Species

The Washington Cattlemen’s Association has joined PLF in a lawsuit to challenge the federal government’s regulation that imposes harsh Endangered Species Act restrictions for as many as 150 species that Congress did not intend to automatically be covered --- including the Oregon spotted frog and the spotted owl, both species that have greatly impacted ranchers like Kelly Kreps of Kreps Ranch in White Salmon, Washington.

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 Washington Cattlemen and PLF Challenge ESA Overreach

PLF's Harold Johnson interviews PLF attorney Jonathan Wood and Jack Field, executive vice president of the Washington Cattlemen's Association about their petition to change an illegal regulation to the Endangered Species Act.

In a petition filed with the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife, the WCA and PLF demand repeal of a regulation that applies the “take” ban in a blanket way to all species classified as “threatened,” contrary to congressional intent and the statute’s text. This regulation subjects ranchers and farmers in the Pacific Northwest — along with citizens from coast to coast — to the possibility of massive fines and even jail for land use activities that Congress has deemed legal. 


Final 'Waters Of The U.S.' Rule Is More Overreach By EPA

"The water rule threatens liberty and must be stopped, which is why we and others have filed suit to overturn it. The cases may be consolidated, but either way, several of us seek to stop enforcement of the rule until our cases are decided."

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Seattle Now Has a "Garbage Gestapo"

"Yes, Seattle, that progressive heaven, now has trash police, who are supposed to check the garbage to make sure it is in compliance with new city rules."

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Forcing developers to fund Seattle’s affordable housing is wrong

"GOOD intentions don’t justify bad policy. That’s why Seattle residents should be concerned about the City Council’s plan for a development fee to fund affordable housing."

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July 2016 PLF Northwest Center Sentry

What PLF's U.S. Supreme Court victory in Army Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes means for landowners, and an update on Common Sense Alliance v. San Juan County.

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May 2016 PLF Northwest Center Sentry

Seattle's trash police has been defeated in a privacy suit, and PLF challenges a wetlands rule in Alaska.

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March 2016 PLF Northwest Center Sentry

Only 7 days to argument in the Hawkes case, PLF moves for summary judgment over trash snoops, and much more!

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  Cattlemen's Powelson      C.S.A     Wolverine    

Washington Cattlemen’s Association v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Bureaucrats took law into their own hands by expanding ESA ban on “takes”


Summary: PLF is challenging a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulation that unlawfully applies the Endangered Species Act’s broad and restrictive “take” prohibition to all ESA-listed species. Congress’ clear intent was to apply the prohibition in a blanket way to species listed as “endangered,” but only selectively — on a case by case basis — to species listed as “threatened.” The Service disregarded this distinction and unilaterally extended the blanket prohibition to cover all “threatened” species. Our petition focuses especially on species that affect Washington ranchers and farmers, specifically the Northern spotted owl and the Oregon spotted frog. The take prohibition’s application to these species restricts the ability of Washington ranchers and farmers to use their property and pursue their livelihoods.

Status:  Rule-making rescission petition in preparation.


Case Page     Press Release     Blog     Podcast     Video


Common Sense Alliance v. GMBH

Fighting to protect San Juan property owners from land grab


Summary: Property owners in the islands of Washington's Puget Sound can't do much with their shoreline. With our upcoming petition to the Supreme Court of Washington, we plan to change that. In Common Sense Alliance v. GMBH, we challenge San Juan County's demands for dedication of shoreline conservation areas in exchange for land-use permits. If shoreline property owners hope for a permit in San Juan County, they have to hand over a vegetation buffer of anywhere from 35 to 205 feet. The County theorizes that this will prevent pollutants in storm water runoff from trickling into the marine environment. But this is no more than theory, since the County demands these buffers without bothering to find out the actual volume of pollutants present, the source of the pollutants, or what part of that volume can be attributed to a proposed development.


Blog    Briefs     Newsletter


Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell

Whatever the science, the ESA is overstepping its boundaries


Summary: Defenders of Wildlife and several other environmental organizations filed suit against the Service, challenging the agency's decision not to list the lower 48-population of the wolverine as a distinct population segment. The lawsuit asserts three claims, two based upon the Service's implementation of its 1996 DPS policy, and one based upon the Service's interpretation of ESA Section 4's "significant portion of its range" language. As to the first two claims, the plaintiffs contend that the Service misinterpreted the "discreteness" prong of the DPS policy by (1) requiring absolute genetic isolation, as opposed to genetic discontinuity, between the lower-48 and Canadian wolverine populations, and (2) discounting the conservation law differences between Canada and the United States for the wolverine.

The third claim argues that the Service's analysis of what constitutes a significant portion of the wolverine's range, and more generally the Interior Department's 2007 memo on the meaning of the relevant ESA text, are not consistent with Congressional intent. The plaintiffs argue that the Service essentially collapses the "significant portion of its range" power with the "throughout all . . . of its range" power, relying upon the flat-tailed horned lizard decision (Defenders of Wildlife v. Norton, 258 F.3d 1136 (9th Cir. 2001)). Because the wolverine is, in North America, a subspecies, the plaintiffs' suit raises the statutory question of whether the ESA authorizes the listing of DPSs of subspecies, as opposed to just species.


Blog     Podcast     Motion

  Bea  Alsea Valley  Coos County  Citizens 

  Luhrs  Lieu  Sackett  Bonesteel  

Bea v. Columbia River Gorge Commission

Summary: PLF defended Brian and Jody Bea after the Gorge Commission ruled their nearly completed home needed to be moved or torn down. Thanks to PLF, the Beas won a 8-0 ruling in the Washington Supreme Court that their rights had “vested,” and they now live in their dream home.


Alsea Valley Alliance v. National Marine Fisheries Service 

Summary: In this case, PLF became the first organization to invalidate a listing of salmon species under the Endangered Species Act. As a result of PLF’s victory, the government was forced to scrap its policy which gave no consideration to plentiful genetically identical hatchery fish in its listing decisions and come up with a new policy.


Coos County Commissioners v. US Fish and Wildlife

Summary: This lawsuit challenged the critical habitat designation on the west coast for the western snowy plover. As a result of PLF’s lawsuit, the habitat originally designated for the plover was decreased by 5,095 acres and the most popular beach and campground in southern Oregon was allowed to remain open during the busy summer tourist season.


 Citizens Alliance for Property Rights v. Sims

Summary: PLF successfully challenged the partisan-passed King County Critical Areas Ordinance which would have required property owners in rural King County, Washington, east of Seattle, to set aside up to 30% of their property as open space as a condition of improving or developing their property. PLF successfully argued the set aside was a tax or fee on development which bore no connection to protecting salmon in Puget Sound 40 miles or more away.


 Luhrs v. Whatcom County

Summary: Northwest Center attorneys won the right for client Vicki Luhrs to build a revetment on her property on Lummi Island to stop erosion from threatening her home on a bluff above the beach. Whatcom County bureaucrats had repeatedly delayed her request for a permit before PLF’s lawsuit forced them to capitulate.


 Leu v. International Boundary Commission

Summary: Who knew that a small retaining wall built by a landowner on the Canadian border east of Blaine, Washington, would cause an international incident, but that is exactly what happened when Herbert and Shirley Leu built a wall in their backyard home. PLF stopped the International Boundary Commission from forcing the Leu to tear down their wall.


 Sackett v. EPA

Summary: The Sacketts purchased a lot for $23,000 to build a modest home in an established neighborhood in Priest Lake, Idaho. After obtaining all the necessary permits, they began clearing the property to build the foundation when the EPA showed up on their door and accused them of violating the Clean Water Act and filling wetlands. The ordered the Sacketts to restore the property to its original condition (which would have cost more than they paid for the lot), plant wetland vegetation that was never there before, wait 3-4 years for the vegetation to grow, and at which time, they could apply for a Clean Water Act permit that costs $300,000 on average and takes 2-3 years, and only then could they go to court to challenge the EPA.

And if they didn’t immediately comply, the would face fines of $75,000 per day! PLF took their case all the way to the United States Supreme Court and obtained a unanimous decision enabling property owners meaning judicial review of EPA compliance orders. The Supreme Court’s ruling overturned 5 Circuit Courts of Appeal that had upheld EPA’s “no judicial review of compliance orders” that had been the rule for over 20 years.


 Bonesteel v. City of Seattle

Summary: PLF represented a number of Seattle residents in challenging the city’s food waste ordinance, designed to stop citizens from throwing out “significant amounts” of food waste and/or compostable paper. Garbage collectors were empowered to enforce the rule through “visual inspection” of trash cans during their routes. The ordinance did not provide citizens with any avenue for challenging alleged violations.

On April 27, 2016 a state judge threw out a portion of a Seattle ordinance requiring garbage collectors to snoop through residents’ trash in search of food waste, calling the provision unconstitutional.



The Pacific Northwest is home to some of the most liberal politicians and radical environmental groups. They’ve influenced some of the most progressive land use laws in the country in Oregon and Washington which fence in growth in urban areas and preserve open space in rural areas. While private property rights are included among the planning goals, to be considered equally with other goals, in practice, they seldom are. Since 1992, the Northwest Center has been the region’s sentinal to aggressively defend the reasonable and lawful use of private property in these and other circumstances.

PLF’s presence in the Northwest is strategically important to ensure there is balance and reason in the application of federal laws like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act. We litigate to challenge species listings that are based on junk science. We challenge criticial habitat designations that don’t properly balance human needs with habitat taken for species recovery. And we challenge federal regulation of species that only exist in one state and have no commercial value. PLF believes land use decisions should be local, not made by federal bureaucrats in Washington, DC.


PLF Northwest Center

Pacific Legal Foundation
10940 NE 33rd Place, Suite 210
Bellevue, WA 98004

(425) 576-0484 | (425) 576-9565 fax