Judge revokes Florida wetlands permitting authority

By Miranda Willson | 02/16/2024 01:31 PM EST

The ruling is a victory for environmental advocates who argued the Trump-era decision impeded consideration of threatened ecosystems and wildlife.

A wood stork.

A wood stork, which is an endangered species, hunts for food at Orlando Wetlands Park in Christmas, Florida, on Feb. 28, 2023. Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration failed to account for risks to endangered species when it allowed Florida to take over a federal permitting program for wetlands, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Randolph Moss, an Obama appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, overturned EPA’s 2020 decision to give Florida oversight of dredge-and-fill permits in a 97-page ruling. Moss also revoked an assessment issued by the Fish and Wildlife Service, concluding that it did not comply with the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling is a victory for environmental advocates in Florida, who’ve argued that the Sunshine State was not able to appropriately consider threatened ecosystems and wildlife when doling out permits for homes and other projects that affect wetlands. Groups that sued EPA over the wetlands takeover decision included the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club and Conservancy of Southwest Florida.


“Today’s ruling sends a clear signal that Congress meant what it said when it passed the Endangered Species Act,” Christina Reichert, an attorney at Earthjustice who represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement. “No state can be allowed to take over a federal program as important as the Clean Water Act’s wetlands permitting program by making an end run around the Endangered Species Act.”