James Rusk is a partner with the Land Use and Natural Resources practice group in the firm’s San Francisco office. He specializes in project permitting, compliance and litigation involving endangered species, wetlands and water quality, and related environmental review requirements.
Jim guides landowners and developers through the complex permitting and compliance processes under federal and state natural resources laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act, the California Fish and Wildlife Code and Porter-Cologne Act, the National Environmental Policy Act and the California Environmental Quality Act. He also represents clients in litigation defending federal and state permits against challenge by project opponents, and in suits challenging arbitrary agency action.
Jim has established strong working relationships with staff at the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Regional Water Quality Control Boards and U.S. Department of Justice. Jim’s areas of expertise also include California water rights, federal Indian law, and the USDA’s National Organic Program, and he is a member of Sheppard Mullin’s Food and Beverage Industry Team.
Representative cases and projects:
- Advised the developer of a 2,700-acre solar generation project in California on natural resources permitting and water rights.
- Successfully defended the section 404 permit against attacks by project opponents in federal district court involving claims under the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act and National Historic Preservation Act.
- Represented a landowner in litigation in federal district court in Hawaii challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of its property as critical habitat under the Endangered Species Act.
- Conducted a water rights assessment for a proposed master-planned development in the Central Valley.
- On behalf of the members and Tribal Council of a federally recognized Indian tribe, successfully challenged in federal district court a Bureau of Indian Affairs decision recognizing a rogue faction as the tribe’s government. Defeated a suit by the rogue faction in California court seeking access to more than $10 million dollars held in trust for the tribe by the state.
- Counseled an accredited organic certification agent on compliance with National Organic Program regulations.
- Assisted an organic foods industry association in commenting on proposed rulemaking and guidance by the USDA under the National Organic Program.
- J.D., University of California, Hastings, 2007, magna cum laude, Order of the Coif, Senior Articles Editor, Hastings Law Journal
- B.A., University of Houston, 1997, magna cum laude
- Federal: United States District Court of California, Northern District, Central District, and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
- American Bar Association, Environment, Energy and Resources Section; Endangered Species Committee; Water Quality and Wetlands Committee
- Urban Land Institute, San Francisco District Sustainable Development Committee
- State Bar of California, Environmental Law section
- Bar Association of San Francisco
- Organic Trade Association
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