FRIENDS OF ANIMALS v. KEN SALAZAR (Civil Action 04-01660): In issuing a blanket exemption for trophy hunting of endangered African antelopes at U.S. ranches, the Interior Department’s US Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
According to Friends of Animals (“FoA”), the Fish and Wildlife Service of the Department of Interior unlawfully exempted US-bred scimitar-horned oryx, addax, and dama gazelles from prohibitions against harming, harassing, pursuing, hunting, shooting, wounding, killing, trapping, capturing, or collecting endangered species.
ESA Section 10 allows some uses for scientific purposes or to improve species survival or propagation if the government publishes notice and allows public comment at every stage of an exemption or permit application. These animals cannot be hunted for sport under this law.
In this case, the antelopes are native to northern Africa. Due to hunting, war, desertification, human settlement, and agribusiness, addax and dama gazelles are nearly extinct today. The scimitar-horned oryx is almost extinct; most of them live on Texas hunting ranches. In 2005, following a Friends of Animals lawsuit, these antelopes were listed as endangered, but the government issued a rule creating a loophole for captive-bred antelopes, claiming that captive breeding has significantly contributed to their conservation.
“This is disingenuous,” said Lee Hall, legal director for Friends of Animals, pointing out that the Service’s exemption follows similar fragmentations of ESA listings, which resulted in gray wolves, Gunnison’s prairie dogs, and Queen Charlotte goshawk protections being removed for political and commercial reasons.
To cater to local governments and special interests, the federal government has eroded the Act’s protections under Bush. For example, in July 2008, the Service removed protections for Preble’s meadow jumping mice in Wyoming but kept them on the endangered species list in Colorado.
The Endangered Species Act must not be fragmented by the Obama administration, Hall said. Our ranches could no longer sell oryx and gazelles for more than $3500 each, and we’re glad the party is over for ranches that let hunters kill antelopes.”
According to the court, subsection 10(c) of the Endangered Species Act demonstrates that Congress intended to provide meaningful public participation in the permitting process. Ranches operating under the loophole have been kept from advocacy groups. As a defendant, Safari Club said advocates could access information online.
But US District Judge Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., wrote, “Blanket exemptions under regulations are at odds with this intention because they allow the FWS to permit a great number of exemptions at once without providing the detailed information to the public that would be required in an individualized analysis.”
Priscilla Feral, Friends of Animals president, appreciated the outstanding work of the University of Denver Environmental Law Clinic. A message against exploitation was sent by the federal court this week, Feral said. What is the point of hunting these antelope when the government would not allow hunting chimpanzees? ”
“We’d like the federal government to protect the animals currently in captivity, who number about 2000 or more, from harm at the hands of hunting enterprises.”
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