Sportsmen Join Suit to Protect Wildlife Management on Kofa NWR
Environmentalists try to eradicate management that supports healthy wildlife populations

July 23, 2007 (Arizona)




(Columbus) – The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation has moved to defend sportsmen in a lawsuit that will eradicate vital wildlife management on federal land.

On July 19, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund, the litigation arm of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, and several other conservation groups filed to join a suit brought against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. Environmental groups are suing the agency claiming that it violated the National Environmental Policy Act and the Wilderness Act by constructing and restoring wildlife watering devices on the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). The devices are critical to the survival of bighorn sheep and other desert wildlife.

“The environmentalists want to use the wilderness designation to prohibit active wildlife management on the Kofa refuge,” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation Vice President for Government Affairs Rob Sexton. “This will deprive the area of wildlife habitat improvements, including the maintenance of water guzzlers. Further, it will set a precedent that will apply to other refuges that have been partially designated as Wilderness.”

The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1939. It is home to desert bighorn sheep and an array of other wildlife species. In 1990, more than 80 percent of the refuge was designated Wilderness by Congress.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation has argued in previous lawsuits that a Wilderness designation does not preclude wildlife conservation. It worked with the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society and other conservation partners to urge the Interior Secretary to protect the wildlife and allow management on the Sonoran Desert National Monument in Arizona when environmentalists filed suit to prevent the maintenance of watering devices.

Sportsmen also urged the National Park Service to allow the watering devices on East Mojave Desert National Preserve when wilderness advocates petitioned to end their use.

The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is joined in the suit by Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, Arizona Deer Association, Arizona Antelope Foundation, Foundation for North American Wild Sheep, Yuma Valley Rod & Gun Club, Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association. Plaintiffs in the case against the FWS include Wilderness Watch and Arizona Wilderness Coalition.

The U.S. SLDF is the nation’s only litigation force that exclusively represents sportsmen’s interests in the courts.  It defends wildlife management and sportsmen’s rights in local, state and federal courts.  The U.S. SLDF represents the interests of sportsmen and assists government lawyers who have little or no background in wildlife law.