Publication details: US Supreme Court , Volume 504 , U.S. 555 ,1992
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The US Endangered Species Act of 1973 required federal agencies to ensure that any authorised actions did not jeopardize endangered or threatened species or destroy natural habitats. A 1986 amendment to the act limited it scope to actions in the United States or on the high seas.
The court case concerned US funding of development projects in Aswan, Egypt and Mahaweli, Sri Lanka. The Defenders of Wildlife organisation claimed that this development could harm endangered species in the affected areas. They filed an action seeking a declaratory judgment that the amendment of 1986 erred by providing for a geographic limit on the original law.
The government declared that the act did not apply to projects outside of the United States. Furthermore, the Court ruled that plaintiffs must suffer a concrete, discernible injury to be able to bring suit in federal court. This ruling meant that the Defenders of Wildlife had no standing (no right to bring the case to court) because they could not show that they had immediate plans to observe endangered species at the sites of federal actions abroad. Nor could they demonstrate any distinct injury suffered other than their interests in endangered species and in ensuring the enforcement of US environmental legislation.
The court decision limited the possibilities for citizens to challenge government environmental agencies in court to force them to comply with environmental laws.
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