Current Litigation Efforts
SCI has moved to intervene in a group of consolidated cases in an effort to challenge two massive settlements with two litigious environmental groups over Endangered Species Act listings. Although the settlements involve the listing of hundreds of species over a six year period, SCI is primarily concerned with the settlements’ treatment of three game species: the greater sage grouse, lesser prairie-chicken, andNew Englandcottontail. SCI supports continued State management of these species instead of an ESA listing, which would subject the species to the inflexible prohibitions of the ESA.
SCI has joined 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/northwestNevada. The gather took place as scheduled. The plaintiff is now asking both the District Court and Ninth Circuit to order the Bureau to return the horses to the range. SCI opposes this because the horses will continue to damage the range and other wildlife, including game animals. SCI has joined the case as a defendant-intervenor in support of the Bureau’s plan for the gather and in opposition to a return of the horses to the range.
SCI is participating in a case brought by the Cloud Foundation and several individuals to try to stop a large wild horse gather on horse management areas inEastern Nevada. Because the Plaintiffs’ efforts to halt the gather failed, the gather occurred as planned. Plaintiffs now seek to have the horses returned to the range, pursuing cases in both the District Court and the Ninth Circuit.
Friends of Animals and other animal rights groups filed suit in federal district court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania challenging the NPS’s plan to reduceValley Forge’s deer overpopulation by a combination of a cull and immunocontraception. The groups claimed that the NPS should have chosen to introduce coyotes into the park to manage the deer. Although no hunting is permitted in the park and theValley Forgeplan rejected the use of hunters as agents, this case potentially impacts hunting in the vicinity of the park as well as game overpopulation management efforts generally. The Court granted SCI’s request to participate as amicus in support of NPS’s plan to cull the deer. The District Court ruled in favor of the NPS and SCI and the Plaintiffs appealed. SCI was again permitted to participate as amicus in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and in June of 2011, the appellate court affirmed the district court and rejected the animal rights group’s challenge.
SCI intervened in a case in which the Fund for Animals and others waged a wholesale attack on hunting opportunities on national wildlife refuges and attempted to end hunting on over 60 refuges. The groups targeted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s NEPA compliance, claiming that the Service had been deficient in assessing the cumulative impacts of opening hunting opportunities on those refuges. In late April 2011, Judge James S. Gwin for the U. S. District Court for theDistrict of Columbiaissued a reasoned and well-documented judgment in favor of the FWS and SCI. As a result, hunting will remain open on all refuges involved in the litigation and the FWS has continued to open and expand hunting on new refuges. The Fund for Animals did not appeal this ruling.
SCI, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State ofArizona, and several sportsmen’s groups, successfully defeated a challenge filed by five wilderness and environmental groups against the FWS’s restoration of two artificial water developments on Kofa National Wildlife Refuge. The water developments are intended to help conserve the refuge’s dwindling bighorn sheep population. SCI is participating as a defendant-intervenor in this case. After a win in theArizonafederal District Court, the Ninth Circuit reversed, questioning the necessity of artificial water developments in wilderness areas. SCI is currently participating in the District Court to make sure that the water developments are permitted to remain to provide water to the bighorn sheep and to protect continued hunting in the refuge.
In April 2010, two private citizens filed a lawsuit in federal court inMinnesota, challenging the FWS’s failure to delist theWestern Great Lakeswolves. SCI and the NRA are jointly participating as amicus in the case, as is the state ofMinnesotaand the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association in support of the private citizens’ efforts to delist the wolves.
SCI has consistently participated as a defendant-intervenor in cases brought by animal rights groups to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s attempts to delist the Northern Rocky Mountain (NRM) wolf population. When Judge Molloy of theMontanafederal district court vacated the 2009 delisting rule, SCI, along with all the other defendants in the case, appealed the decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Now that Congress has legislatively removed the NRM wolves from the endangered species list (includingMontana,Idaho, and portions ofUtah,OregonandWashingtonState), the pending appeal of Judge Molloy’s ruling against the delisting will likely be dismissed as moot.
Some of the groups that challenged the delisting filed suit, claiming that Congress’ legislative solution violates the U.S. Constitution. The district court denied SCI’s motion to intervene in that case and SCI has appealed that denial to the Ninth Circuit. The District Court subsequently rejected the challenge to the law delisting the NRM wolf. Whether the unsuccessful plaintiffs will appeal is still in question. For now, the wolves of the NRM area, with the exception of those inWyoming, are not listed under the ESA.
Just prior to delisting the Northern Rocky Mountain wolves, the FWS issued a regulation granting the states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming increased ability to seek authority to lethally remove wolves having an unacceptable impact on wild ungulate populations. Eleven animal rights groups filed suit inMontanafederal court to challenge this rule. SCI intervened in that litigation. On August 4, 2011, the Court rejected the challenge to the regulation as moot.
A wolf advocacy group filed a lawsuit claiming that the National Park Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and several laws pertaining to the administration ofRockyMountainNational Park, because the NPS implemented a “hunters as agents” program to assist in the cull of Park’s elk overpopulation. The group also challenged the NPS’s elk management plan because it rejected a strategy for introducing wolves into the park in order to reduce the elk numbers. SCI intervened to defend the cull and the program. In March 2011, the Colorado District Court entered judgment in the NPS’s and SCI’s favor, finding the NPS’s use of qualified members of the hunting community as volunteer sharpshooters to be in accordance with the National Park Service Organic Act, laws specific to Rocky Mountain National Park, and the National Environmental Policy Act. WildEarth Guardians appealed the ruling, so SCI and the NPS are defending our win in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In three separate lawsuits brought in two separate U.S. District Courts, a group of animal rights organizations, a single environmental group, and an individual have challenged the FWS’s decision to remove the Yellowstone grizzly bear population from the ESA list of threatened species. Two cases are in Idaho; one is in Montana. The Montana District Court ruled first and overturned the delisting of the grizzly bear. SCI participated as a defendant-intervenor in that case. The Federal Defendants, SCI and others appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Briefing has been completed and all parties are currently awaiting a decision from the Ninth Circuit.
SCI is also participating in one of the cases in Idaho, described below. The Idaho Court stayed proceedings pending the outcome of the Ninth Circuit appeal. In the case in which it was granted amicus status, SCI filed two amicus briefs in support of the delisting. SCI is carefully monitoring the other case.
On May 15, 2008, the FWS listed the polar bear as threatened throughout the world, effective immediately. The FWS also announced that with the listing, it would no longer allow the importation of polar bears hunted in Canada. In 2008, SCI participated in litigation in District Court in California at which the import issue was raised but not resolved. Numerous parties, including SCI, filed lawsuits concerning the listing and SCI challenged the import ban. All of the cases were consolidated in District Court in Washington D.C. After extensive briefing and two hearings, the D.C. District Court ruled against SCI’s claims and held that the listing was proper. SCI is considering an appeal. SCI is still awaiting a decision on the import ban case, which is also fully briefed and argued.
After years of stalemate, the New Jersey Fish and Game Council and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) Commissioner both approved a black bear management policy that includes a bear hunt. A bear protectionist group filed a lawsuit challenging the adoption of the policy and to stop the bear hunt. The hunt went forward as planned in early December and was very successful. The bear groups are continuing to litigate the case so as to try to stop future bear hunts under the policy. SCI is participating as a defendant-intervenor to defend the policy and the hunt.
SCI has intervened in a case in defense of Nevada's first bear hunt in history. SCI has submitted two briefs in support of the State’s decision and in opposition to the attempt by Plaintiff NoBearHuntNV.org to stop the hunt. The Court ruled against the Plaintiff and is allowing the hunt to proceed, as scheduled in mid-August of 2011.
SCI is involved as amicus in a lawsuit challenging Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service planning documents involving a large federal unit in Arizona. The plaintiff, Center for Biological Diversity, claims that the agencies should have banned lead ammunition in the unit because of alleged harm to condors and other species. Another claim involves the allowance for off-road vehicle use in the unit, including for hunting purposes. SCI is working closely with the NRA on this case to oppose the lead ammunition ban.
The Fish and Wildlife Service decided not to list the greater sage grouse as a threatened or endangered species. Instead, the Service cited greater priorities and placed the bird on the “Candidate Species” list. Animal rights groups immediately challenged this decision in Federal court. SCI is seeking amicus status in this case.
WildEarth Guardians (“WEG”) and Western Watersheds Project filed suit alleging that the FWS did not use the best scientific evidence in rejecting WEG’s petition to list the Columbian Sharp–Tailed Grouse (“CSG”). There is currently CSG hunting in Idaho, Utah and Colorado. SCI participated in this case as an amicus. The Court recently agreed with SCI’s position and upheld the decision not to list the CSG. The Court found that WEG had not provided sufficient information showing that the listing may be warranted.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed suit to force the National Park Service to issue federal regulations that will restrict hunting on the Mojave National Preserve to big game and upland game only; shorten the hunting season; and restrict the areas where hunting can take place. SCI is participating as a defendant-intervenor. The case is briefed and we are awaiting a ruling from the federal district court for the District of Columbia.
The Center for Biological Diversity and other groups (CBD) filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). CBD is asking the Court to require the EPA to ban lead ammunition and fishing tackle. CBD had filed a petition for the ban with the EPA, which the agency denied. SCI and NRA are participating in the case as defendant-intervenors.