Bennett v. Spear

In Bennett v. Spear, 520 U.S. 154, 162 (1997), the Fish and Wildlife Service, in an effort to preserve a particular species of fish, issued a biological opinion that had the effect of requiring the maintenance of minimum water levels in certain reservoirs. A group of ranchers and irrigation districts brought suit asserting a "competing interest in the water," alleging, in part, injury to their commercial interest in using the reservoirs for irrigation water. 520 U.S., at 160. The plaintiffs charged that the Service had violated a provision of the Endangered Species Act requiring "use of the best scientific and commercial data available." Id., at 176. The Supreme Court did not ask simply whether the plaintiffs "had" an interest in holding the Service to the "best data" requirement. Instead, the Supreme Court assessed whether the injury asserted by the plaintiffs fell within the zone of interests protected by the "best data" provision, and concluded that the economic interests of parties adversely affected by erroneous biological opinions are within the zone of interests protected by that statute. Id., at 176-177 (observing that one purpose of the "best data" provision "is to avoid needless economic dislocation produced by agency officials zealously but unintelligently pursuing their environmental objectives").