SCI Wins One for Hunters
On September 26,2005, Safari Club International (SCI) sustained a major victory against the Fund for Animals and other animal rights groups in a lawsuit that attempts to threaten the expansion of hunting opportunities on National Wildlife Refuges around the country.

SCI, together with joint defendant intervenors U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund, Ducks Unlimited, Isaak Walton League of America, Delta Waterfowl and California Waterfowl, collaborated with the federal government to ask the Court to dismiss a significant portion of the Plaintiffs’ claims. Judge Ricardo Urbina of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted the motion filed by SCI, dealing a major blow to the Fund for Animals’ strategy.

SCI Vice President Kevin Anderson, head of the SCI Legal Task Force, lauded the victory as a needed “kick in the pants” to the animal rights groups. “Animal rights organizations have misused federal environmental laws in an ever-increasing attempt to stall, complicate and even halt legitimate hunting opportunities on public lands. It is time that they learn a lesson that SCI is around to defend against the inappropriate use of those environmental laws that were never designed to stop hunting.”

In their lawsuit, the Fund had argued that the government had violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when the government submitted to Congress its strategic plan with goals for the entire National Wildlife Refuge System. One of the goals of the Strategic Plan was to increase by 20 percent wildlife-recreational opportunities, such as hunting, in the National Wildlife Refuge System. The anti-hunting groups claimed that the government was obligated to assume the huge task of preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to assess the environmental consequences of this goal before opening or expanding refuges to hunting.

SCI asked the Court to dismiss the Plaintiffs' claim, explaining to the court that the kind of goals announced in a Strategic Plan are not the type of governmental action that triggers NEPA procedures. Judge Urbina agreed with SCI’s position and dismissed the Fund’s claim. The Court acknowledged that it is the actions by agency personnel in the individual refuges, and not the setting of goals by national agency officials, that the court must scrutinize to determine whether the government’s NEPA requirements have been fulfilled.

Now that the case has been trimmed down significantly, the case will be assigned a briefing schedule and SCI will move forward with defending the USFWS' actions to expand and increase hunting opportunities on 39 refuges of the system.
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