Alligators, Salmon, And Bees, Oh My! ELC Students Work To Protect Imperiled Species

Even as we shelter-in-place and classes have been moved online, Stanford Environmental Law Clinic students continue their efforts to protect threatened species. Representing the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society, ELC students Erika A. Inwald and William Conlon have been working diligently to intervene in a case to defend California’s alligator and crocodile trade ban.

Intended to take effect on January 1, 2020, California Penal Code section 653o would bar the commercial importation and sale of products made from alligators and crocodiles. Corporations involved in the alligator and crocodile trade sued to block enforcement of the statute, claiming that it was preempted by the Endangered Species Act and that it violates the dormant Commerce Clause.

In March, Erika and Will argued an intervention motion in federal district court, a motion which is still pending before the court. They are preparing to argue in May against a preliminary injunction that has delayed the implementation of the alligator and crocodile trade ban.

Alligators, Salmon, And Bees, Oh My! ELC Students Work To Protect Imperiled Species
William Conlon and Erika A. Inwald preparing to argue in federal district court.

In a separate case, the Clinic intervened on behalf of Clinic clients the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety to defend the California Fish and Game Commission’s decision to protect four species of critically endangered native bumblebees under the California Endangered Species Act.

Insects make up the vast majority of pollinators and form the bedrock of California’s agriculture and wild ecosystems. And yet, in Almond Alliance v. California Fish and Game Commission, several prominent agricultural interest groups are challenging the Fish and Game Commission’s authority to list under the California Endangered Species Act not only these imperiled bumblebee species, but in fact any insect. Advanced clinic student Joe Ingrao, who co-wrote our clients’ motion to intervene and continues to work on the case, argues that the agricultural groups’ argument could, if successful, curtail California’s ability to protect essential and endangered insects at a time when pollinator populations are on a precipitous decline.

Finally, ELC represents the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (SPAWN) and the Center for Biological Diversity in an action to protect coho salmon and steelhead in Marin County. Nearly a decade ago, the Clinic prevailed in a CEQA lawsuit requiring that Marin County mitigate the impacts from development on these imperiled fish. Since then, these mitigation measures have been improperly deferred, even as development continues. This prompted the Clinic to file another lawsuit to ensure that, among other things, binding mitigation measures are adopted and implemented. “I have found it very rewarding to work on behalf of these imperiled animals,” said Clinic student Joe Zabel, who drafted the opening brief. “We cannot turn a blind eye to these species just because they are less charismatic. The collective result of this lack of regard for animals is irreparable damage to ecosystem wellbeing. The imperiled fate of each species is part of a greater degradation of the environment in the face of reckless development.”