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Water-Related News

Judge rejects handing over wetland permitting duties to the State of Florida

In what is being hailed as a victory to conservationists, a U.S. district judge has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service don’t have the right to hand over wetland permitting duties to the state of Florida.

The ruling will affect large planned housing developments in rural areas outside Naples that conservationists and biologists consider crucial habitat for the endangered Florida panther.

Prior to December 2020, when the federal agencies handed over wetland development permitting to Florida, permitting required federal Fish and Wildlife impact reviews on endangered species.

The plaintiffs claimed that the Florida process was less rigorous, and therefore a violation of the Endangered Species Act. The judge agreed.

The EPA and U.S. Fish and Wildlife handed over the regulating process to Florida in December of 2020, in the waning days of the Trump Administration. The Biden Administration continued the policy.

Several plaintiffs — including Miami Waterkeeper, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife and the Sierra Club — alleged in a lawsuit that the federal agencies violated the law “in their rush to transfer this permitting authority to Florida in the final days of the last administration.”