Bill overturning 'Cottonwood' decision advances

With a temporary measure set to sunset next year, a bill that would permanently reverse an appellate court’s decision on when federal agencies must consult on endangered species advanced from a U.S. Senate committee Thursday.

Montana Republican Steve Daines and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin co-sponsored an amendment to Senate Bill 2561, aimed at reversing the 2015 “Cottonwood Decision," before the bill passed from committee Thursday. The decision is named for the Bozeman-based Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, which won the case before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The decision found that the U.S. Forest Service needed to take a top-level look at its management plans after new critical habitat designations were determined for the threatened Canada lynx. In practice, the decision meant that within the 9th Circuit, the Forest Service needed to open up forest plans to consult the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service when a new species was listed under the Endangered Species Act, when new critical habitat was designated or when significant new information about a listed species became available. Litigation has followed as conservation groups seek enforcement of the decision.

Read more from the Helena IR here...

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