Current Litigation Efforts

Return to the Litigation Section

Current and Past Hunter-Advocacy Litigation (March 2014)

  • Polar Bears
    (SCI v. Jewell; Center for Biological Diversity v. Jewell)

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

SCI intervened, in cooperation with the NRA and RMEF, in three cases brought by separate animal-rights group collaborations to challenge the Service's delisting of Wyoming's wolves. Two cases before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia have been fully briefed and the court held oral argument in December of 2013. We are currently awaiting a ruling. In June 2013, WildEarth Guardians filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of their case with the Wyoming District Court. The State of Wyoming, supported by the FWS and all Defendant-Intervenors, opposed the dismissal and asked the Court to retain jurisdiction and proceed with the case. As of March 2014, the Wyoming Court has not yet ruled on that motion. Back to top

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 Associations, 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. Briefing was completed in early 2014 and we are now awaiting a ruling and/or scheduling of oral argument. Back to top

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 remanded the case to the District Court to vacate the ruling and dismiss the case without prejudice due to WildEarth Guardians' lack of standing. The state has moved for a clarification of the order to determine whether the unappealed ruling regarding the Director of Fish and Game will stand. Back to top

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 we are now awaiting a ruling on the appeal. Back to top

Three Antelope 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 legality of the FWS's listing of the captive populations of the three species. SCI has appealed that ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court.

SCI donated funds received in settlement of its case against the FWS relating to the Service's failure to meet statutory deadlines pertaining to SCI's petition for the delisting of the U.S. populations. The funds have been invested in the Bamberger Selah Ranch's conservation and research on scimitar-horned oryx. In November of 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. Please see the article chronicling that visit in the January 2014 Litigation Newsletter.

SCI v. Jewell et al.(2): In June 2013, the FWS issued a 12-month ruling denying SCI's petition to delist the U.S. populations. The Service's denial is based on the premise that the ESA prohibits the FWS from separately classifying a population that exists exclusively in captivity and/or outside the species' native/historic range. SCI is considering a case to challenge that decision.

FoA v. Jewell et al.: In late 2013, Friends of Animals filed yet another suit regarding the three antelope species – this one challenging 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.

In January 2014, Congress passed a law that requires 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. SCI has succeeded in obtaining stays of both active lawsuits to see how the FWS's compliance with the new legislation will impact the outcome of the two lawsuits. Back to top

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. As of March 2014, we are still awaiting a decision from the Court. Back to top

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. Briefing on the case is complete and the Court held oral argument, in which SCI participated, on August 29, 2013 in Pasadena, California. As of March 2014, we are still awaiting a decision from the Court. Back to top

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 is participating in the appeal. In 2014, this appeal was put on hold pending the resolution of the Twin Peaks wild horse appeal. Back to top

Kofa Water Development (Wilderness Watch v. Jewell et al.)

SCI, together with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of Arizona, and several sportsmen's groups, successfully defeated a challenge in Arizona federal district court filed by five wilderness and environmental groups to 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. The Ninth Circuit reversed that ruling late in December 2010 and remanded the case to the Arizona District Court to determine a remedy to rectify the FWS's violation of the Wilderness Act. After further briefing on remedy, the Arizona District Court ruled in our favor (and in favor of the FWS and the State of Arizona) and ordered the FWS only to provide an additional explanation as to why the water developments are necessary for bighorn sheep conservation. The FWS is currently developing the process by which it will provide the court with the additional information. Back to top

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 and fishing tackle. 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 and SCI filed its brief, in coordination with the other intervenor-appellees, NRA, NSSF and the American Battery Recyclers, on February 18, 2014. Back to top

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. SCI and NRA moved to intervene as did the State of Arizona. 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 National Rifle Association, and National Shooting Sports Foundation jointly filed an amicus brief on February 5, 2014. Back to top

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. In October 2013, the DOJ has moved for transfer of the case from Arizona to federal court in D.C. or New Mexico. Once the court rules on venue, SCI will move to intervene to defend the policy. Back to top

Polar Bears (SCI v. Jewell; Center for Biological Diversity v. Jewell)

On May 15, 2008, the FWS published a rule listing 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. Safari Club, the State of Alaska, and others challenged the listing. After unfavorable rulings from the D.C. federal District Court and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, SCI, together with fellow plaintiffs Conservation Force and Congress of Racial Equality, petitioned the Supreme Court for review. In October 2013, the Supreme Court denied the petition, putting an end to the litigation for this matter. Back to top

Challenge to Virginia Sunday Hunting (SCI v. Commonwealth of Virginia)

SCI has challenged a Virginia law that prohibits hunting of wild animals on Sundays. The complaint is already filed, but we have not served the state defendants (and thus have delayed the litigation). Virginia's General Assembly passed a bill that makes some forms of Sunday hunting legal and the Governor is expected to sign the law in March 2014. SCI will then assess the impact of the new legislation and the interests of Virginia SCI members before determining if and how to proceed with further litigation. Back to top

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

SCI has moved to participate 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. SCI opposed the injunction in its amicus brief. 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. Subsequent to the hearing, the Judge asked for the appointment of a special master to resolve several factual issues that the court deems crucial to his ruling in the case. Back to top

Wolf Cull for Predator-Prey Balance in Idaho (Maughan v. Vilsack)

Defenders of Wildlife, Wilderness Watch, Center for Biological Diversity and others have filed suit against the U.S. Forest Service and the Idaho Department of Game and Fish to challenge a cull of two wolf packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. Idaho is conducting the cull to improve the area's predator-prey balance and to stem the 40% decline in the elk population. SCI is seeking to participate as a Defendant-Intervenor and participated in the briefing on the motion for preliminary injunction of the cull requested by the Plaintiffs. In February 2014, the Court denied the plaintiffs' request for preliminary relief and shortly thereafter, Idaho announced that the cull was complete. Subsequently, Idaho issued a plan for wolf management in the Wilderness Area. The plan will likely become the focus of the litigation as it continues. Back to top

Challenge to California's Ban on Importation of Mountain Lion Trophies

SCI is developing a case to challenge the constitutionality of a California law that bans individuals from possessing or importing trophies of mountain lions, even if hunted outside the state of California. Suit will likely be filed in late winter or spring of 2014. Back to top

Forest Road Closure (County of Shoshone v. U.S. Department of Agriculture)

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 to explain how a road closure in the Coeur D'Alene National Forest would undermine adaptive management practices and prevent hunters from being able to access preferred hunting areas and from retrieving game. Back to top

Significant Completed Cases and Area Impacted:

Polar Bear Listing and Importation Litigation – Nationwide

Hunting on National Wildlife Refuges – Nationwide

Canadian Lynx and the ESA – Minnesota and Maine

Elk Culling 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 Imports – 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

Back to top


Safari Club International » Advocacy