Current Litigation Efforts

Return to the Litigation Section

Current and Past Hunter-Advocacy Litigation (Updated: November 2014)

Elephant Import Ban Challenge (SCI v Jewell)

SCI filed a lawsuit to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Serviceˊs April 4, 2014 ban of the importation of sport-hunted elephants from Zimbabwe and Tanzania. NRA subsequently joined us as a plaintiff. On July 31, 2014, the FWS announced its decision to continue the ban for Zimbabwe until the end of 2014. SCI moved to amend its original complaint to include new claims based on the July 31, 2014 decision.

The parties have fully briefed two motions to dismiss filed by the FWS and the motion to amend SCIˊs complaint. No ruling has been issued on any of these motions, to date.

A week after filing suit in April, SCI moved for a preliminary injunction in an attempt to immediately reverse the importation bans for the duration of the lawsuit. The District Court denied our motion for a preliminary injunction, and we appealed the ruling to the D.C. Circuit. The appellate court granted our motion for expedited review and held a hearing on the appeal on October 3, 2014. When it became apparent to SCI that the pendency of the appeal was preventing the District Court from ruling on the pending motions and otherwise moving the case toward a resolution of the merits, SCI moved to dismiss its appeal of the preliminary injunction denial.

Challenge to California's Ban on Importation of Sport-hunted Mountain Lion Trophies (SCI v. Harris)

SCI has challenged the constitutionality of a California law that bans individuals from possessing or importing trophies of mountain lions hunted outside of California (SCI is not challenging the ban on hunting mountain lions in California). SCI claims that the California law violates the U.S. Constitutionˊs Commerce and Equal Protection Clauses. The state filed a motion to dismiss the case. SCIˊs response is due in January 2015, and the court has scheduled a hearing on the motion for February 2, 2015, in Sacramento, California.

Wyoming Wolf Delisting Challenge (Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell; HSUS v. U.S. FWS)

SCI intervened, in cooperation with the NRA and RMEF, in cases brought by separate sets of animal-rights groups that challenge the Service's delisting of Wyoming's wolves. Two cases were consolidated and brought before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The court held oral argument in December 2013. In September 2014, the court ruled that Wyomingˊs intention to maintain a wolf population in excess of the minimum of 10 breeding pairs/100 wolves did not qualify as a binding commitment or adequate regulatory mechanism. On that basis the judge set aside the delisting and returned wolves in Wyoming to the endangered species list. SCI is waiting to see whether Wyoming or the FWS will appeal the ruling. If no appeal is filed, the FWS will likely need to initiate another rulemaking to consider again delisting Wyomingˊs wolves.

Western Great Lakes Wolf Delisting Challenge (HSUS v. Jewell)

SCI and NRA have intervened in a case brought by several animal rights groups challenging the Service's delisting of the Western Great Lakes wolf population. Joining SCI/NRA in the intervention are the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association, MUCC and other groups. The states of Michigan and Wisconsin have also intervened and Minnesota is participating as an amicus. In October 2014, after summary judgment briefing was completed, the judge ordered the parties to submit briefs on whether the she should allow separate briefing on the appropriate remedy, in the event that she finds the delisting to be illegal in any manner. We are now awaiting a ruling on summary judgment, additional briefing and/or scheduling of oral argument.

New Mexico Wolves (WildEarth Guardians v. Lane)

WildEarth Guardians sued the Director of New Mexico's Department of Fish and Game and Chairman of its Fish and Game Commission for authorizing trapping in areas occupied by the nonessential experimental populations of Mexican wolves in the state because wolves have occasionally been caught in those traps. Safari Club filed an amicus brief to help defend New Mexico's wildlife authorities against claims that they have violated the "taking" prohibitions of the Endangered Species Act. On December 3, 2012 the New Mexico federal court granted the New Mexico state officials' motion to dismiss the case, issuing an important ruling that is likely to affect other cases that assert state liability over the management of experimental populations.

The Plaintiffs appealed only the portion of the ruling concerning the Chairman of New Mexico's Fish and Game Commission. Over WildEarth Guardian's objection, SCI was granted leave to participate in the appeal as an amicus. The Tenth Circuit held oral argument on January 23, 2014 and later remanded the case to the District Court to vacate the ruling and dismiss the case without prejudice due to WildEarth Guardians' lack of standing. We are waiting to see whether WildEarth Guardians will respond with new litigation. The FWS is about to finalize changes to the rules regarding management of the Mexican wolf population. The changes could make WildEarthˊs challenges unnecessary

Wisconsin Wolf Hunt with Hounds (Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies v. Stepp)

Several Wisconsin-based Humane Societies, wolf advocacy groups and individuals sued the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to challenge regulations promulgated at the direction of the state legislature, authorizing the use of hounds for the tracking and trailing of wolves during the state's first post-delisting wolf hunt. SCI, in coordination with United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters and U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, were granted the right to intervene. After oral argument held on January 16, 2012, the judge issued a partial ruling in favor of the state and SCI. The court held that hunting with hounds may continue but invalidated the rule authorizing the training of dogs for wolf hunting. The Plaintiffs appealed this ruling and SCI et al. filed a cross appeal to challenge the court's ruling on the training of dogs. The parties completed briefing in late fall 2013 and, in an unpublished opinion, the court ruled in favor of Wisconsin and the hunting groups. The plaintiffs did not appeal.

Three Antelope Cases (Three pending cases)

SCI v. Jewell et al.: SCI filed suit in August 2011 in federal court in the District of Columbia, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2005 decision to include the U.S. captive populations of the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax in the endangered species listing for the three species as a whole. On August 9, 2013, the court denied SCI's motion for summary judgment and upheld the FWS's listing of the captive populations of the three species. SCI has appealed that ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court. That case is currently stayed pending a ruling in the case challenging Congressional action making permits unnecessary for the sale of hunts for members of U.S. captive herds. See below. SCI donated funds received in settlement of one of the claims in this case relating to the Service's failure to meet statutory deadlines pertaining to SCI's petition for the delisting of the U.S. populations. SCI invested the funds in the Bamberger Selah Ranch's conservation and research on scimitar-horned oryx. In November 2013, SCI made a formal presentation of the check to David Bamberger and his team. This donation distinguishes SCI from animal rights groups that devote funds awarded in litigation to further litigation and membership recruitment rather than direct conservation. Read our article about the donation in the May/June 2014 issue of SAFARI Magazine.

FoA v. Jewell et al. (I): In late 2013, Friends of Animals challenged the FWS's issuance of permits to U.S. ranches for the culling of members of their captive herds of the three species. SCI successfully intervened in the case. The FWS has filed a motion to dismiss the case, and SCI has moved in support of that dismissal. That case is currently stayed pending a ruling in the case challenging Congressional action making permits unnecessary for the sale of hunts for members of U.S. captive herds. See below.

FoA v. Jewell et al. (II): In January 2014, Congress passed a law that required the FWS to reinstate the 2005 rule that allowed the culling and other activities related to captive populations of the three antelope species without an individual permit (which the FWS did). In March 2014, Friends of Animals filed a lawsuit in District Court in D.C. challenging the statute and the regulation that the FWS reinstated to comply with the statutory directive. FoAˊs suit claims that the law violates the separation of powers doctrine of the U.S. Constitution. SCI intervened in the case to defend the law. The parties have just completed briefing on the case and are awaiting either the scheduling of a hearing or a decision from the Court.

Challenge over Big Cypress ORV/Wilderness Plan (National Parks Conservation Association et al. v. U. S. Department of the Interior et al.)

The National Park Service adopted a plan to allow off-road vehicle use and to designate a limited amount of "Wilderness" area (about 40,000 acres) in the Addition Lands in BCNP. In October and November of 2011, two separate sets of environmental groups challenged the plan in U.S. court in Florida. Both sets of groups want more land designated as Wilderness and fewer ORV trails. SCI was granted intervention to defend the management plan. SCI filed two briefs in the case in support of the ORV plan and limited Wilderness designation recommendation. The magistrate judge in the case issued a "Report and Recommendation" to uphold the NPS's plan (which SCI supported). The parties filed briefs on the Report and the District Court judge, who will make the ultimate decision, held a hearing on June 14, 2013. In September 2014, the court issued a favorable ruling upholding the ORV/Wilderness Plan. This should help pave the way for the resumption of hunting in the Addition Lands (walk-in hunting has already started). One set of plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to reconsider a few aspects of the decision. Once that is resolved, an appeal of the entire case is likely.

Twin Peaks (California/Nevada) Horse Roundup Litigation (In Defense of Animals v. Jewell)

SCI intervened to oppose a case brought by In Defense of Animals to challenge the Bureau of Land Management's plan to gather close to 2,000 wild horses and burros in the Twin Peaks Management area in northeast California/northwest Nevada. The gather occurred in 2010. SCI was granted defendant-intervenor status and participated in oral argument in federal district court in Sacramento in February 2012. On November 15, 2012, the California District Court ruled in favor of the BLM and SCI. The ruling from the court upholding the gather and transfer of horses to long-term pastures was very favorable. The court specifically relied on arguments made only by SCI. The Plaintiffs filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Briefing on the case is complete and the court held oral argument, in which SCI participated, on August 29, 2013 in Pasadena, California. In May 2014, the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court decision upholding the horse gather. This case should provide favorable precedent to help defeat other challenges to wild horse gathers across the West

Triple B (Nevada) Horse Roundup Litigation (Cloud Foundation v. Jewell)

SCI intervened to oppose a case brought by the Cloud Foundation to challenge the Bureau of Land Management's plan to gather approximately 1,700 excess horses from the Triple B Complex Herd Management Area in eastern Nevada. Briefing before the District Court ended in September 2012. On March 26, 2013, the District Court ruled in favor of SCI and the BLM on all claims. The Cloud Foundation appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit. SCI was participating in the appeal. In 2014, this appeal was put on hold pending the resolution of the Twin Peaks wild horse appeal. After losing the Twin Peaks case, the horse advocates dismissed their appeal, putting an end to this case as well

Toxic Substances Control Act - Lead Ammunition Case (CBD v. EPA)

The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA seeking to require the EPA to ban lead ammunition. CBD had filed a petition for the ban with the EPA, which the agency denied. This was the second petition and lawsuit that CBD filed, after their initial suit was dismissed by the D.C. District Court. SCI and NRA are participating as full-party intervenors in the case. The District Court, after oral argument, dismissed the second suit based on motions to dismiss filed by the EPA and the Defendant-Intervenors. CBD appealed the decision. After appellate briefing, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia heard oral argument in October 2014. We are awaiting a ruling from the appellate court

Lead Ammunition in Kaibab National Forest (CBD v. U.S. Forest Service)

SCI, in coordination with the NRA, moved to intervene in the Center for Biological Diversity's challenge to the Forest Service's authorization of lead ammunition use in the Kaibab National Forest. CBD claimed that the FS violated statutory obligations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The Arizona District Court granted a motion to dismiss filed by the federal government. The court ruled that CBD failed to demonstrate its standing. The court explained that even if it were to force the U.S. Forest Service to ban lead ammunition, that action would not eliminate the alleged harm to far-ranging condors. CBD has appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. SCI, the NRA, and National Shooting Sports Foundation jointly filed an amicus brief on February 5, 2014. We are awaiting the scheduling of oral argument before the Ninth Circuit

McKittrick Case (WildEarth Guardians v. Department of Justice)

WildEarth Guardians filed suit in U.S. District Court in Arizona to challenge the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) practice of choosing not to pursue criminal prosecution of individuals who accidentally shoot members of federally protected species. The DOJ adopted the practice in 1998 in the case of U.S. v. McKittrick – a case in which the federal government brought criminal charges against an individual who shot a protected gray wolf but claimed he thought it was a wild dog. Despite a successful prosecution of McKittrick in the District Court and Court of Appeals, the DOJ submitted a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court, informing the Court that it would no longer instruct juries that such accidental takings were subject to criminal penalties under the ESA. The DOJ has generally followed the policy since. In May 2013, WildEarth Guardians challenged the 15+ year old policy, asserting that it has undermined Mexican wolf experimental population recovery efforts. The DOJ filed a motion to dismiss or transfer venue. The U.S. District Court in Arizona denied DOJˊs motion, but the court placed limitations on what the plaintiffs could challenge, specifically limiting WildEarth Guardianˊs challenge to the policyˊs impact on the Mexican wolf population in Arizona and New Mexico. In late 2014, the DOJ filed another motion to dismiss, for different reasons. We are awaiting a ruling from the court on that motion. If the DOJ does not succeed in having the case dismissed, SCI will attempt to intervene in the case to defend the DOJˊs policy.

Coyote Hunting in Red Wolf Area in North Carolina (Red Wolf Coalition v. NCWRC)

SCI is participating as an amicus curiae to defend coyote hunting in the recovery zone of a nonessential experimental population of red wolves in northeastern North Carolina. In addition to affecting coyote hunting, the case could impact several other cases in which SCI is participating, including those involving the Mexican gray wolf experimental population. In February 2014, the judge heard oral argument regarding a preliminary injunction motion that would temporarily stop coyote hunting in the area until the case is resolved. SCI participated in the hearing. In May 2015, the court granted an injunction halting coyote hunting in the five-county area. The parties subsequently settled the case. The state agreed to propose regulations allowing limited coyote hunting with a permit and disallowing night hunting. The court is also considering whether to adopt the terms of the proposed regulation as a modified injunction (allowing coyote hunting to resume while the state considers its proposed regulation). A hearing was held on November 12, 2014 on this issue.

Forest Road Closure

In early 2014, SCI filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case brought by the County of Shoshone, Idaho against the U.S. Forest Service over a road designation and closure in the Coeur D'Alene National Forest. SCIˊs brief explained how the closure would undermine adaptive management practices and prevent hunters from being able to access preferred hunting areas and from retrieving game. In early November 2014, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of the Forest Service and against the county.

Significant Completed Cases and Area Impacted:

Polar Bear Listing and Importation Litigation – International
Hunting on National Wildlife Refuges – Nationwide
Canadian Lynx and the ESA – Minnesota and Maine
Hunters as Agents for Ungulate Management in Rocky Mountain National Park – Colorado
Gray Wolf Delisting and Permitting – Nationwide
Endangered Species Act Settlement – Nationwide
Hunting and ORV Use in the Arizona Strip – Arizona
Hunting in Cape Cod National Seashore – Massachusetts
Argali Importation – International
Predator Control in Mojave National Preserve – California
Grizzly Bear Delisting – Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
Mute Swan Management – Maryland
Black Bear Hunting – New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada
Hunting Videos in the Supreme Court – Nationwide
Second Amendment Issues in the Supreme Court – Nationwide
Proper Management of Roadless Areas – Western States
Grouse Hunting and Management – Western States
Valley Forge Historical Park Deer Cull – Pennsylvania
Wild Horse and Burro Gathers – Western States

Back to top

Safari Club International » Advocacy