The United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an order (pdf) denying a motion for preliminary relief filed by plaintiffs suing the City and County of San Francisco over the management of Sharp Park Golf Course, which San Francisco owns but which is located in the City of Pacifica in San Mateo County, California. At issue in the case is whether San Francisco’s management of the golf course violates the take prohibition of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Plaintiffs sought an injunction that would substantially restrict activities necessary to allow for continued operation of the golf course.
The Sharp Park golf course has been in continuous operation since 1930. For a substantial portion of that period, two listed species — the endangered San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia) and threatened California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) — have been present at Sharp Park. Plaintiffs argued that pumping during the rainy season to control water levels in water bodies on site, mowing, and golf cart use are likely to cause take of listed species. They further argued that the standard for granting preliminary relief in an ESA case is whether take is likely to occur. The court rejected this argument, recognizing that preliminary relief is an extraordinary remedy and that plaintiffs must show a likelihood of irreparable harm.
The court determined that plaintiffs failed to meet their burden of establishing irreparable harm. In sum, the court held:
The expansion of the Frog population, coupled with defendants’ careful attention to moving any vulnerable egg masses and their continuing interactions with [the Fish and Wildlife Service] seeking authorization to do so, make this a situation that does not warrant the temporary, immediate, and drastic relief afforded by a preliminary injunction.
Slip Op. at 14.