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Friends of Animals v. Phifer

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

April 29, 2015

FRIENDS OF ANIMALS, Plaintiff,
v.
PAUL PHIFER, Assistant Regional Director of Ecological Services for the Region Office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and DAN ASHE, Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO TRANSFER CASE (Dkt. No. 8)

MARK G. MASTROIANNI, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Friends of Animals ("Plaintiff"), a non-profit animal advocacy organization, brings this action against Paul Phifer and Dan Ashe ("Defendants"), in their capacities as Assistant Regional Director of Ecological Services for the Northeast Region Office, and Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, respectively, pursuant to § 10 of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1539. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that Defendants' issuance of an Incidental Take Permit ("ITP") to the state of Maine was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with federal law, and requests the ITP be vacated. Presently before the court is Defendants' motion to transfer the case to the District of Maine pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). For the following reasons, the court concludes transfer of this action to the District of Maine is warranted and therefore will allow Defendants' Motion to Transfer Case. (Dkt. No. 8.)

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

This case arises out of the Fish and Wildlife Service's issuance of an ITP under the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1539(a)(1)(B), to the state of Maine for incidental trapping of Canada lynx. These lynx are medium-sized cats distinguished by their long legs, large furry paws, long tufts on their ears, and a short, black-tipped tail. (Dkt. No. 1 ("Compl.") ¶ 21.) In the contiguous United States, lynx primarily reside in mixed coniferous and deciduous forests, historically in the most northern states and western mountainous areas as far south as Colorado. (Compl. ¶¶ 23-24.) However, the lynx population in the United States has declined, and the population now remains in four main regions: the Northeast, the Great Lakes, the Northern Rocky Mountains/Cascades, and the Southern Rocky Mountains. (Compl. ¶ 24.) In the Northeast region, lynx historically resided in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. (Compl. ¶ 25.) It is possible that lynx have been eradicated from all Northeast states except for Maine, "making Maine a unique geographic area important to lynx in the contiguous United States." (Compl. ¶ 25.)

On March 24, 2000, the Fish and Wildlife Service listed the Distinct Population Segment of the Canada lynx as threatened with extinction under the Endangered Species Act. (Compl. ¶ 28.) The Fish and Wildlife Service also designated Maine as a critical habitat for lynx, as it is "the only state in the Northeastern region of Canada lynx's current range within the contiguous United States." (Compl. ¶ 30.) The Fish and Wildlife Service also expressed concern in its listing decision about the loss of lynx through legal or illegal trapping or shooting. (Compl. ¶ 29.)

In 2007, several plaintiffs filed suit against the state of Maine in the District of Maine concerning the effects of the state's furbearer trapping program on the Canada lynx, alleging the state had authorized trappers to take Canada lynx in violation of the Endangered Species Act. (Compl. ¶ 41.) Thereafter, the state of Maine agreed to a settlement that was memorialized in a Consent Decree and Order issued by the court on October 4, 2007. (Compl. ¶ 42, Exhibit A.) The Consent Decree and Order imposed various restrictions on trapping activities in areas of Maine considered lynx habitat. (Compl. ¶ 42.) It also contained a provision allowing the state to pursue a court order terminating the Consent Decree if the state were to obtain an Endangered Species Act ITP from the Fish and Wildlife Service which would allow for lynx to be incidentally caught within the state of Maine. (Compl. ¶¶ 34, 42.) The district court in Maine also retains continuing jurisdiction over that case until the Consent Decree is terminated in order to enforce its terms and conditions, modify or terminate it where good cause is shown, and to resolve any disputes arising from it. (Compl. ¶ 11, Exhibit A.)

On August 13, 2008, Maine submitted an application along with a draft incidental take plan to the Northeast Region Office of Fish and Wildlife Service in Hadley, Massachusetts for an ITP for the incidental trapping of lynx within the state of Maine. (Compl. ¶ 43.) In late 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service solicited public input on Maine's proposed incidental take plan. (Def. Mem. at 2.) Maine revised its proposed plan in July of 2013 in response to public comment. (Compl. ¶ 44.) In October of 2014, Maine submitted a final incidental take plan, requesting authorization to increase the taking of lynx by 20% in the state. (Compl. ¶¶ 45-46.)

The Fish and Wildlife Service approved the ITP and final incidental take plan with no additional restrictions or conditions. (Compl. ¶ 48-49.) The ITP covers all licensed trappers in the state of Maine and the state itself, and authorizes the taking of 195 Canada lynx: up to 183 may be captured and released with no or minor injuries, nine may be taken and released after severe injuries, and up to three may be killed or non-releasable due to injuries. (Compl. ¶ 50-51.) It also requires maintaining and enhancing 6, 200 acres of lynx habitat as a mitigation measure. (Compl. ¶ 54.)

On January 22, 2015, Plaintiff, a non-profit organization incorporated in the state of New York with many members residing in Maine and recreating in areas affected by the permit, brought this action against Defendants challenging the approval and issuance of the ITP to the state of Maine under 16 U.S.C. § 1539. (Compl. ¶¶ 1, 7.) Defendants filed a motion to transfer the case to the District of Maine. (Dkt. No. 8.)[1]

III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

"For the convenience of parties and witnesses, in the interest of justice, a district court may transfer any civil action to any other district or division where it might have been brought." 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). "The statute is intended to place discretion in the district court to adjudicate motions for transfer according to an individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and fairness." Stewart Org., Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Astro-Med, Inc. v. Nihon Kohden Am., Inc., 591, F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir. 2010).

Courts frequently divide factors they consider into private and public categories.... Private factors include the statutory considerations of convenience of the parties and witnesses, but also include the plaintiff's forum preference, where the claim arose, and the relative ease of access to sources of proof. Public factors, which encompass the statutory consideration of the interest of justice, focus on judicial economy and often include the district court's familiarity with governing law, the local interest in deciding local controversies at home, and the relative congestion of the courts.

Amary v. JP Morgan Chase & Co., 2012 WL 6045980, at *2 (D. Mass. Oct. 18, 2012) (citing 15 Wright, Miller & Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure: Jurisdiction 3d § 3847 (2007)); see also Cianbro v. Curran-Lavoie, Inc., 814 F.2d 7, 11 (1st Cir. 1987); Kleinerman v. Luxtron Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 122, 125 (D. Mass. 2000); F.A.I. Elecs. Corp. v. Chambers, 944 F.Supp. 77, 80-81 (D. Mass. 1996) (citing Gulf Oil Corp. v. Gilbert, 330 U.S. 501, 508 (1947)). The burden rests ...


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