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National Wildlife Refuge Week Declared Amid Lawsuit Concerning Hunting in Refuges

October 4, 2007

October 7-13 is National Wildlife Refuge Week, and this year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is celebrating the occasion by continuing to promote sport and trophy hunting on refuge lands following a decision by a U.S. District Court that the agency's sport hunting program violates federal law.

In an ongoing lawsuit requesting that a federal court vacate U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rules opening and/or expanding hunting on dozens of National Wildlife Refuges, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled last year that the government violated the law by failing to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the impacts of expanding sport hunting on over 35 refuges throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System. 

The Fund for Animals and other individual refuge users have now asked the court to include in the lawsuit an additional 26 refuges at which hunting was opened or expanded since the lawsuit was commenced, as the government has already admitted that its "environmental assessments for these openings or expansions are not materially different from those the court adjudged to be inadequate."

After the court's August 2006 ruling, the Fish and Wildlife Service requested that the rules remain in place through May 2007 so that it could undertake a new environmental analysis.  However, in issuing over sixty new environmental review documents in less than four months, the government has again failed to undertake a meaningful analysis of the cumulative environmental impacts of increased hunting throughout the Refuge System and in specific regions.

"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has failed to meet the mandate of the court and continues to run roughshod over sensitive resources and endangered species in its haste to open more and more protected refuge lands to sport hunting," said Andrew Page, The HSUS' hunting campaign director. "The government's decision to vastly expand sport hunting without any comprehensive environmental review is not only illegal, but also ignores the agency's mandate to protect our public lands and wildlife for the benefit of future generations."

The plaintiffs are represented in the case by Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal and lawyers with the HSUS' Animal Protection Litigation section.

Facts

  • In less than a decade, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has opened or expanded more than 70 refuges to sport hunting in 30 states.
  • The National Environmental Policy Act requires that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyze the regional and system-wide impacts of hunting before permitting hunting at Refuges.
  • The first national refuge was established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt, who—himself an avid hunter—recognized that it is necessary to set aside public lands to provide sanctuary to wildlife.
  • For half a century, refuges were both safe havens for wild animals and areas where people could hike, watch birds, and boat without the threat of hunting.

Timeline

  • 2007 – The HSUS files motion to supplement lawsuit adding 26 new refuges to the case and ask that the court vacate the rules.
  • 2006 – A U.S. district court declares that the FWS violated the law in allowing sport hunting on National Wildlife Refuges (448 F. Supp. 2d 127 D.D.C. 2006).
  • 2003-2005 – 29 national wildlife refuges open to hunting or expand their hunting programs.
  • 2003 – The Fund for Animals and a group of citizens file a lawsuit claiming that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service violated the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • 1998-2002 –37 national wildlife refuges open to hunting or expand hunting programs.
  • 1998 – A U.S. General Accounting Office report showed that many refuge managers considered hunting a "harmful use" of refuge lands and more than half advocated for an end to it.

 

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 10 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- On the web at humanesociety.org.

The Fund for Animals was founded in 1967 by prominent author and animal advocate Cleveland Amory, and for nearly four decades, has spearheaded some of the most significant events in the history of the animal protection movement. The Fund operates world-famous animal care facilities, such as the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, two wildlife rehabilitation centers, a rabbit sanctuary, and the Rural Area Veterinary Services (RAVS) program. The Fund also has more than a dozen active legal cases to protect animals in the courts. On the web at www.fundforanimals.org.

Media contact: Jordan Crump, 301.548.7793