Tucson — An Arizona Federal District Court ruled for Safari Club International (SCI) and Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) on September 8, in favor of sheep conservation on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in the state of Arizona.
Judge Mary Murguia granted SCI and SCIF’s motion for summary judgment and denied the motion of Wilderness Watch and several other groups that sought to remove two water developments. The water sources, restored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will help to conserve the refuge’s dwindling desert bighorn sheep population. The court also entered judgment for the FWS and the State of Arizona.
The wilderness and environmental groups asserted that, in renovating the artificial water developments, the FWS had violated National Environmental Policy Act and Wilderness Act requirements. However, since the year 2000, Kofa’s sheep herd had diminished in number from over 800 to less than 400. State and federal biologists had concluded that the area’s prolonged drought was a significant factor in the loss of the sheep population and determined that permanent sources of water, like these artificial water developments, would help counteract the impact of the dry conditions and help increase population.
SCI and SCIF collaborated in defense of the wildlife with several national and local groups including the National Rifle Association, Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Antelope Association, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Yuma Valley Rod and Gun Club and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation.
SCI President Merle Shepard commented “The federal government and the State of Arizona did what was necessary to help reverse a disturbing decline in a valuable sheep population. When those efforts were challenged, SCI and SCIF rose to that challenge to defend the restoration of man-made water sources.”
Shepard went on to emphasize the victory as proof of SCI’s long-term commitment to providing essential water to desert wildlife, noting “Slowly but surely, SCI and others committed to desert wildlife conservation are demonstrating and defending the importance of protecting the habitats of our wildlife.”