The attorneys of Safari Club International's Hunter Advocacy and Litigation Section work to promote and preserve hunting and sustainable use conservation in courts throughout the country. Read for updates in our Business Report, below.
SCI is unique among hunting organizations as the only one to have a team of lawyers dedicated to defending the right to hunt and to participate in sustainable use of wildlife. SCI has participated in cases in courts in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey, Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Washington, D.C., Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Montana, California, Idaho, Nevada and Alaska.
In the last decade SCI has litigated over 50 cases involving species such as moose, mule deer, white-tailed deer, caribou, muskox, dall sheep, argali sheep, Arizona desert bighorn sheep, grizzly bear, black bear, polar bear, gray wolves, lynx, wild horses, condor, greater sage grouse, Columbian sharp tailed grouse, mute swan, pheasant, ducks, scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, addax and many others.
In addition to the protection of domestic hunting opportunities, SCI lawyers aggressively defend rules that allow the importation of trophies from foreign nations, as well as the role that sport hunting plays in the conservation of species abroad.
SCI attorneys have a recognized expertise in the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Wilderness Act, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act, the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act, FLPMA, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and many federal and state laws, regulations and policies that govern or affect hunting, conservation, and importation.
In addition to their litigation pursuits, SCI lawyers apply their expertise to analyzing and representing SCI's interests by drafting comments on behalf of SCI and the greater hunting community in response to public input opportunities offered on federal and state actions, regulations and policies.SCI attorneys also help draft and analyze legislation that impacts hunting access and opportunities, importation of foreign species, and sustainable use conservation.
SCI shares its expertise with other lawyers each year at its annual hunting convention in Nevada.SCI attorneys and other guest leaders in the fields of hunting, firearms, wildlife conservation and importation present an accredited continuing legal education course for lawyers.The course is co-sponsored by the Nevada State Bar.
Business Report: February 2014
The Litigation Section has been typically busy since the August 2013 SCI Board Meeting.
Filing Suit in State Courts
SCI attorneys are actively challenging state laws that deprive our members of hunting and importation opportunities. We are preparing to file suit in California to challenge a state law that prohibits the importation of mountain lion trophies hunted outside the state. SCI also recently sued state officials in Virginia to challenge its statutory ban on Sunday hunting of wildlife.
Wolves remain the subject of many of our cases. In North Carolina, we joined as amicus in a suit that challenges coyote hunting in an area occupied by an experimental population of red wolves. In the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, we helped defend New Mexico's regulation of trapping in the area inhabited by the experimental Mexican wolf population. SCI is participating as a defendant-intervenor in cases challenging the delisting of wolves in Wyoming and in the Western Great Lakes states. We are battling in state court in Wisconsin to protect state wolf hunting regulations. Most recently, we moved to intervene to defend against a challenge to Idaho's decision to improve the predator/prey balance by reducing the wolf population in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness area.
We are engaged in a number of advocacy efforts involving the U.S. populations of scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax. SCI has appealed an unfavorable ruling in SCI's suit to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's decision to list these non-native populations as endangered. We are also participating as a defendant-intervenor in a case challenging the FWS's issuance of culling permits to private ranches. We are gearing up for a third suit in which we will challenge the FWS for their decision to reject SCI's petition to delist the U.S. populations. SCI was able to actively help conserve the three antelope species by donating proceeds earned in a lawsuit against the FWS over their failure to act in a timely manner on our delisting petition. We invested the attorney fee settlement award we received in a scimitar-horned oryx conservation and research project being conducted on the Bamberger-Selah Ranch in Texas.
Protecting Hunting in Other Scenarios
We continue to defend wild horse population reductions on Bureau of Land Management units in Nevada and California, and we are fighting to prevent lead ammunition bans in cases filed in the D.C. and Arizona federal courts. We participated in a hearing and are now awaiting a ruling from federal court in Florida over the fate of ORV use on lands added to the Big Cypress National Preserve. SCI will soon join a lawsuit to defend a U.S. Department of Justice policy that avoids criminal prosecution for hunters who inadvertently shoot members of a federally listed species.
SCI litigators have also been active in representing SCI's interests in federal and state agency decision-making. Over the last few months, we have prepared and filed over a dozen comment letters on a variety of topics, including species listings, hunting on refuges, use of volunteers for wildlife management on National Parks, rules governing the management of experimental populations, and resource planning.
The following are highlights of SCI's recent litigation efforts. For a detailed discussion of all cases and regulatory matters in which SCI is presently involved, please refer to SCI's ˵Litigation Report˶ and ˵Litigation Newsletter.˶
SCI v. Jewell
SCI has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review SCI's challenge to the listing of polar bears as threatened throughout their range. SCI is joined by fellow plaintiffs Conservation Force and Congress of Racial Equality. We received unfavorable rulings from the D.C. federal District Court and D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, so the Supreme Court is the last judicial option. In the petition, SCI not only explains why the FWS erred in its determination that the species will likely be in danger of extinction 45 years from now, but also demonstrates why the Service's listing of polar bears will prove detrimental for listing decisions for numerous other species. We will likely hear whether the court takes our case next fall.
Center for Biological Diversity v. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; WildEarth Guardians v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell; HSUS v. Jewell.
- SCI played a pivotal role in the defeat of a challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity against the Minnesota DNR concerning the regulations authorizing Minnesota's first wolf hunt since the delisting. The Court dismissed CBD's claims based on the standing arguments SCI introduced in its amicus brief.
- SCI joined the State of Wyoming, the FWS and other defendant-intervenors in opposing WildEarth Guardians' attempt to voluntarily end their lawsuit against the delisting of Wyoming's wolves. WEG's efforts to end their suit is a form of reverse forum shopping, designed to place the question of the legality of the delisting exclusively within the jurisdiction of a D.C. federal District Court.
- SCI, together with the NRA and RMEF filed an opposition brief in the D.C.-based challenges filed by two plaintiff groups led by Defenders of Wildlife and HSUS. SCI's brief focused on hunting and how hunting leads to social tolerance of predators, which in turn benefits the conservation of the species.
Trumpeter Swan Society v. Environmental Protection Agency; Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Forest Service
- Following briefing and oral argument, a D.C. federal District Court judge dismissed the suit brought by plaintiffs under the Toxic Substances Control Act, seeking to force the EPA to issue regulations banning lead ammunition nationwide. SCI and NRA are participating as intervenors in this matter. Plaintiffs have appealed that ruling and briefing will commence this summer.
- An Arizona federal court dismissed a case filed by CBD under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act pertaining to hunting in the Kaibab National Forest. The court ruled that plaintiffs lacked standing as they could not prove that success in the case would redress the harm to California condors that they alleged resulted from the use of lead ammunition in the forest. We are waiting to see if Plaintiffs will appeal.
Virginia Sunday Hunting Bans
SCI v. Commonwealth of Virginia
- SCI will be pursuing a challenge to Virginia's statutory prohibition on Sunday hunting. Unlike other states with Sunday hunting restrictions, Virginia has adopted a constitutional right to hunt. SCI will be challenging the constitutionality of the statute, which bears no reasonable relation to scientifically based wildlife management principles. A survey SCI conducted demonstrates that the overwhelming majority of SCI members in Virginia and throughout the U.S. are opposed to Sunday hunting restrictions.
Hunting Access via ORV Use on National Preserve Lands
National Parks Conservation Association v. U.S. Department of the Interior
- SCI participated in a day-long hearing in support of the National Park Service's plan for allowing ORV use in the Addition Lands of the Big Cypress National Preserve and in limiting Wilderness designation in the Addition to 40,000 acres. Following the hearing, the court directed the parties to submit additional briefing on whether the Plaintiffs had demonstrated that their case was ripe for review and that they possessed the requisite standing (interest and harm) to bring their case to court. This briefing was recently completed.
- ESA Settlement Litigation (In Re Endangered Species Act Section 4 Deadline Litigation) – Greater Sage Grouse, Lesser Prairie-Chicken, New England Cottontail
SCI's efforts to overturn the multi-species settlements between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity continue despite setbacks in federal courts. After the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's refusal to allow SCI to intervene to challenge the settlements, SCI petitioned the D.C. Circuit for en banc (full court) review of the reasons for denying SCI intervention into this case. We are now awaiting a decision from the Court. If the Court grants our petition, it likely will order additional briefing on the issues and hold a hearing.
- Triple B (Nevada) Horse Roundup Litigation (Cloud Foundation v. Salazar)
On March 26, 2013, the Nevada District Court ruled in favor of SCI and the Bureau of Land Management in a case that challenged the BLM's gather of 1700 horses from the Triple B Complex Herd Management Area in eastern Nevada. It is likely that the plaintiffs will appeal this decision to the Ninth Circuit. SCI will participate in any appeal.
- Polar Bears (SCI v. Kempthorne; Center for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne)
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.
Listing Lawsuits: Safari Club, the State of Alaska, and others challenged the listing. After the District Court ruled against SCI, SCI and the other plaintiffs appealed to the D.C. Circuit. On March 1, 2013, the D.C. Circuit upheld the District Court decision and the listing of the polar bear. SCI, Conservation Force, and one other group have filed a petition for rehearing en banc (full court review) with the D.C. Circuit.
Import Lawsuit: SCI alone challenged the import ban. After the District Court for the District of Columbia upheld the import ban on polar bears, SCI appealed the decision to the D.C. Circuit. The Court held oral argument on May 9, 2013. The Court usually takes about 2-5 months to issue a decision.
- Three Antelope Listing Challenge Case (SCI v. Salazar et al.)
After many months of inactivity, the District Court ordered additional briefing, directing SCI to demonstrate its prudential standing to bring this action. This new matter is briefed and a ruling is likely to follow this summer. In addition, in accordance with an agreement entered into between SCI and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, on or before May 31, 2013, the FWS will make a 12 month finding on SCI's petition to delist the three antelope species. SCI is also in the process of investigating a conservation program or project involving one or more of the three antelope species to which SCI can invest the funds obtained via the settlement with the FWS.
- Challenge over Big Cypress ORV/Wilderness Plan (National Parks Conservation Association et al. v. United States Department of Interior et al.)
The magistrate judge in the case recently issued a ˵Report and Recommendation˶ to uphold the NPS' plan to allow off-road vehicle use in the Addition Lands of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The NPS, State of Florida and SCI have filed briefs supporting the magistrate's Recommendation. The Recommendation now goes to the District Court judge, who will make the ultimate decision. The court is under no timetable to issue a final decision and may hold a hearing on the matter.
- New Mexico Wolves (WildEarth Guardians v. Lane)
On December 3, 2012 the New Mexico federal Court dismissed a challenge to New Mexico state officials' authorization of trapping in the area occupied by an experimental population of the Mexican wolf. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling and SCI has moved to participate in the appeal as an amicus.
- Wisconsin Wolf Hunt with Hounds (Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies v. Stepp)
After oral argument held on January 16, 2012, a Wisconsin state judge issued a ruling that upheld the legality of the state's authorization of the use of dogs to hunt wolves in Wisconsin, but invalidated rules regarding the training of dogs for wolf hunting. SCI participated in the case as an intervenor in coordination with the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation and local Wisconsin groups. The plaintiffs have appealed the ruling and SCI will defend the ruling. SCI will consider whether to assert a cross appeal regarding the invalidation of the training regulations.
- Minnesota Wolf Hunt (Center for Biological Diversity v. Minnesota DNR)
As an amicus, SCI briefed and participated in oral argument to attack CBD and Howling for Justice's standing to challenge the legality of the expedited procedure by which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources promulgated regulations authorizing the state's 2012-2013 wolf season. At a recent hearing, the court focused on the standing argument raised by SCI. We are now awaiting a ruling from the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
- Wyoming Wolf Delisting Challenge (Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar; HSUS v. U.S. FWS; WildEarth Guardians v. Salazar)
SCI and the NRA have moved to intervene in the three cases filed to challenge the delisting of Wyoming's wolves. In the case before the Wyoming District Court, SCI/NRA's motion to intervene was granted with conditions. In the two cases before the District of Columbia federal district court, the plaintiffs did not oppose intervention and we are awaiting the court's ruling. Recently, the D.C. Court denied a motion filed by the FWS to transfer the D.C. cases to Wyoming. Consequently, SCI/NRA will (hopefully) be participating in defense of the delisting in two separate courts.
- Western Great Lakes Wolf Delisting (HSUS v. Salazar)
SCI and the NRA have joined forces with U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation, Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, Wisconsin Bowhunters Associations, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association and other groups to intervene to defend the delisting of the wolves of the Western Great Lakes. Plaintiffs do not intend to oppose our intervention. The states of Michigan and Wisconsin are also seeking intervention.
Administrative Comments on Statutory, Regulatory and Policy Matters
Since the January 2013 Board Meeting, SCI's Litigation Department has drafted comments on the following:
- Forest Service Planning Directives – SCI's comments stressed hunting access and opportunities in regard to the strategies that the FS will use to implement its new planning regulations.
- Big Cypress Hunt Plan Comments - SCI supported the National Park Service's plan to reopen the Addition Lands of the Big Cypress National Preserve to hunting.
- Ozark Mountain National Wildlife Refuge – SCI commented on a proposed Comprehensive Conservation Plan that would open a portion of the refuge to new hunting opportunities. SCI also encouraged the FWS to continue to work with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to open more areas of the refuge to hunting.
- Lesser Prairie-Chicken Proposed ESA Listing – SCI opposed the listing of the LPC as a threatened species under the ESA. The comments also addressed impact of the ESA Settlements on the listing of LPC.
- Wood Bison Reintroduction – SCI supported the reintroduction of wood bison as an experimental population. The comments also supported the special rules that would give primary authority for management of the population to the State of Alaska and would enable the State to authorize sustainable hunting of the wood bison when the State deems it appropriate.
- Letter Opposing Minnesota Wolf Hunt Moratorium – SCI sent a comprehensive letter to Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Thomas Bakk opposing a bill which would place a five-year moratorium on wolf seasons in Minnesota. The letter contained legal arguments, and economic and biological facts that support our position against a moratorium.
- SportAccord's Definition of Sport – SCI submitted comments to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers recommending that SportAccord's application for the ˵.sport˶ generic top level domain name be rejected because SportAccord's limited definition of ˵sport˶ would specifically exclude hunters and hunting organizations from using the ˵.sport˶ domain name.
New Victories and New Cases
- Twin Peaks (California/Nevada) Horse Gather Litigation (In Defense of Animals v. Salazar) - SCI achieved victory in a case brought by In Defense of Animals to challenge the BLM's gather of close to 2,000 wild horses and burros in the Twin Peaks Management area in northeast California/northwest Nevada. On November 15, 2012, the California District court ruled in favor of the BLM and Defendant-Intervenor SCI. Court relied on arguments advanced solely by SCI. Plaintiffs have already appealed.
- Rocky Mountain National Park Elk Management (WildEarth Guardians v. National Park Service) – On January 10, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the Colorado District Court's two findings supported by SCI: (1) that the National Park Service's use of volunteers as agents is a legal means of reducing wildlife populations on National Parks, and (2) that the NPS's decision to reject an introduction of a wild wolf population as an infeasible alternative strategy was reasonable.
- Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf Delisting (Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar) - SCI, NRA, the FWS and all other Defendant-Intervenors, persuaded the Ninth Circuit to vacate a 2010 ruling from Judge Molloy of the Montana District Court concerning the FWS's authority to delist only portions of a species or distinct population segment. This victory will prove valuable against two new suits filed by animal rights coalitions against the delisting of Wyoming's wolves.
- Lead Ammunition in Kaibab National Forest (CBD v. U.S. Forest Service) - SCI, together with the NRA, have 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 has opposed our intervention and we have filed a reply.
- Three Antelope Listing Challenge Case (SCI v. Salazar et al.) - The FWS has issued a 90-day finding on SCI's petition to delist the U.S. captive populations of the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle and addax. The Service determined that delisting ˵may be warranted˶ and will make its 12-month finding on or before May 31, 2013.
- New Mexico Wolves (WildEarth Guardians v. Lane) - On December 3, 2012, a New Mexico federal Court dismissed a case challenging the state of New Mexico's authorization of trapping in areas inhabited by Mexican wolves. Although the court did not grant SCI's amicus motion, we circumvented that ruling by instigating the amicus participation of the State of Arizona, who made many of our arguments. The New Mexico wolf ruling is likely to affect other cases that assert state liability over the management of experimental populations. WEG has appealed, giving SCI another opportunity to participate as an amicus in the case.
- Wisconsin Wolf Hunt with Hounds (Wisconsin Federated Humane Societies v. Stepp) - SCI, in coordination with United Sportsmen of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters and USSAF, intervened to defend statutorily authorized regulations governing the use of hounds in Wisconsin's first wolf season since federal delisting. At an oral argument held on January 4, 2012, the judge issued a partial ruling in the State's and SCI's favor, holding that hunting wolves with hounds may continue, but invalidating current regulations governing the training of dogs to hunt wolves . The judge held a supplementary hearing on January 16, 2013 to clarify portions of his ruling.
- Minnesota Wolf Hunt (Center for Biological Diversity v. Minnesota DNR) - SCI was granted leave to participate as an amicus in a challenge to Minnesota's first wolf hunt since delisting. We filed a brief challenging the plaintiffs' standing to sue and are awaiting the scheduling of oral argument or a ruling from the court.
- Wyoming Wolf Delisting Challenge (Defenders of Wildlife v. Salazar; HSUS v. U.S. FWS) - SCI and the NRA will move to intervene in three cases brought by separate animal rights group collaborations to challenge the FWS's delisting of Wyoming's wolves. Two of the cases were filed in D.C. district court and the third was filed in Colorado. The Colorado Court has already transferred its case to federal court in Wyoming. The FWS has moved to have the two D.C. cases transferred from federal court in D.C. to Wyoming and we are awaiting a ruling, after which SCI/NRA will file our motion to intervene.
- ESA Settlement Litigation (In Re Endangered Species Act Section 4 Deadline Litigation) – Challenge to multi-species settlement agreements between U.S. FWS and animal rights groups. – Status: On January 4, 2013, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals affirmed the district court's ruling denying SCI's intervention in the case. Without reaching the merits of SCI's objections to the settlement agreements, the Court ruled that SCI lacked standing to intervene in the case. SCI is considering whether to file a request for ˵en banc˶ review of the denial of intervention. (En banc review involves all the active judges on the D.C. Court of Appeals, as opposed to just the three judges on a panel.) We are also exploring other legal avenues to challenge the settlements.
- Triple B (Nevada) Horse Roundup Litigation (Cloud Foundation v. Salazar) – Defense of BLM wild horse gather. – Status: Briefing complete, awaiting hearing or ruling from Nevada federal district court.
- Kofa Water Development (Wilderness Watch v. Salazar et al.) – Defense of artificial water development designed for bighorn sheep conservation. – Status: Arizona District Court ruled in favor of SCI/NRA and FWS to allow water developments to remain while FWS provides better explanation of necessity of artificial water sources.
- Polar Bears (SCI et al. v. Salazar; SCI v. Salazar) – Appeals of rulings upholding threatened listing of polar bears and imposition of importation bans. – Status: Briefing and oral argument completed in listing case; briefing completed, awaiting hearing date in import case.
- Greater Sage Grouse Candidate Status (Western Watershed Project v. FWS) – Favorable outcome in defense of FWS's decision to classify species as a candidate species. - Status: Plaintiff did not appeal; case over.
- Lead Ammunition Case (CBD v. EPA) - Defending EPA's denial of second petition seeking to ban lead in ammunition. – Status: SCI//NRA as intervenors filed motion to dismiss the case; now awaiting ruling.
- Challenge over Big Cypress ORV/Wilderness Plan (NPCA et al. v. DOI et al.) – Defense of National Preserve (Addition Lands) Management Plan facilitating hunting and ORV use. – Status: Briefing complete. Awaiting scheduling of oral argument and/or ruling.
Since the August 2012 Board Meeting, SCI's Litigation Department has filed comments on the following:
- Mojave National Preserve: Comments on Proposed Alternatives for Water Resource Plan.
- Straight-Horned Markhor: Comments in support of reclassification and draft rule to allow importation of hunting trophies into the U.S.
- Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge: Comments on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's approach to artificial water developments for wildlife conservation.
- African Lion: Comments on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's determination that an endangered species listing for the African Lion may be warranted.