The lengthy battle over hunting access on dozens of units of the
100 million-acre National Wildlife Refuge system has ended in favor
In April 2011, federal Judge James S. Gwin ruled for sportsmen
across America by granting summary judgment denying a lawsuit filed
by anti-hunting groups aimed at closing hunting on National
Wildlife Refuge System parcels. After this ruling, an appeal
process was opened, and the appeal clock began ticking. On Monday,
that appeal period came to an end with the Humane Society of the
United States (HSUS) failing to file any appeal.
This long-running case began in 2003, when the Fund for Animals,
which later merged with the HSUS, filed a lawsuit to stop hunting
on 39 refuges. Anti-hunting groups later expanded the lawsuit to
nearly 60 refuges.
Judge Gwin’s April 2011 ruling stopped HSUS’ attempt at using the
National Environmental Policy Act to close hunting on these
refuges. In making the decision, the judge noted that “Plaintiffs,
however, are not entitled to an inviolate sanctuary for their
preferred uses – Congress has determined that, to the extent
possible, hunters, fishers, observers, photographers, and educators
must share the refuge.” The 1997 Refuge Improvement Act made
hunting, fishing and other wildlife oriented activities priority
uses on refuge units. The Act also mandated hunting and fishing
activities be ‘facilitated.’
Groups representing hunters in this case included the U.S.
Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund (SLDF), the legal arm of the U.S.
Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation; Safari Club International, Ducks
Unlimited, National Rifle Association, Izaak Walton League, Delta
Waterfowl Foundation, and California Waterfowl Association. U.S.
Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation released a statement saying, “The
National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act of 1966
empowered the Fish and Wildlife Service to open refuges to hunting
when compatible with the purposes for which the refuges were
established. Today, hunters can continue to enjoy these benefits
thanks to this important win.”