By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a victory to timber company Weyerhaeuser Co(WY.N) in its bid to limit the federal government's power to designate private land as protected habitat for endangered species in a case involving a warty amphibian called the dusky gopher frog.
The court, in a 8-0 decision, threw out a 2016 ruling by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that had favored the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and sent the case back to the lower court to reconsider.
Weyerhaeuser harvests timber on the Louisiana land in question and was backed in the case by business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 2012, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to include private land where the frog does not currently live as critical habitat, potentially putting restrictions on future development opportunities.
The frog, found only in southern Mississippi, also previously inhabited Louisiana and Alabama. The U.S. government identified the Louisiana land partly owned by Weyerhaeuser, which is based in Washington state, as meeting the criteria for the frog's habitat under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh did not participate in the case, which was argued before President Donald Trump's nominee was confirmed by the Senate last month.
(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)