Washington, D.C. — On Tuesday, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals handed Safari Club International an important victory in an Endangered Species Act (ESA) case involving “enhancement” permits. These permits, issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), authorize a state or other entity to “take” a small number of an endangered species if doing so enhances the overall survival of the species. Such permits are often necessary to allow states to properly manage wildlife and their habitats.
The appellate panel granted SCI’s request to vacate a 2006 D.C. district court opinion issued in a case brought by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups. Safari Club International and Safari Club International Foundation joined the case as intervenors to defend the legality of an ESA permit issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to the state of Wisconsin.
The “enhancement” permit authorized state wildlife officials to lethally remove wolves that repeatedly preyed on livestock and pets. The appellate panel vacated the district court’s ruling in which the lower court found that the ESA does not ever allow the issuance of enhancement of survival permits for the lethal removal of an endangered species.
The FWS delisted the gray wolves of the Western Great Lakes in 2007. Upon delisting, the question of the legality of Wisconsin’s permit became moot, but the district court’s ruling persisted as a deterrent to future enhancement permit activity. SCI persuaded the Court of Appeals to vacate the district court’s opinion. Although the FWS also appealed the decision, the Court indicated that SCI’s involvement was essential to the Court vacating the lower court’s decision.
The Court of Appeals’ ruling effectively wipes the slate clean on the question of whether the FWS has legal authority to issue enhancement permits for the lethal removal of members of an endangered species.
SCI President Dennis Anderson says the decision, “underscores the important role that SCI plays in wildlife litigation. The Appellate Court made it clear that SCI’s request to vacate the district court’s opinion made all the difference in its decision. By participating, SCI has neutralized a troublesome lower court decision on the FWS’s authority to issue enhancement of survival permits. By doing so, SCI has advanced both sound state management of wildlife and sustainable use conservation.”