Humane Society of the United States v. Glickman
217 F.3d 882 (D.C. Cir. 2000)
Virginia was having a problem
because the Canadian geese population was exploding. The Department of
Agriculture instituted an "Integrated Goose Management Program."
Under the program, various
methods of getting rid of geese were authorized, from harassing them, to
altering habitats, to killing.
The program was to be done
during the summer, when all of the migratory geese were in Canada, so it
would only affect resident, non-migratory geese.
The Department of the Interior
(DOI) performed an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that said that
because of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MTBA) (16
U.S.C. §§703-711), a permit from the
Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would be required to kill any birds.
A year later, FWS issued a
memorandum saying that Federal Agencies no longer needed a FWS permit
before killing migratory birds.
The Humane Society sued for an
injunction to stop the program.
Human Society argued that MTBA
§703 required valid permits from the
The FWS argued that, based
on the decision in Sierra Club v. Martin (110 F.3d 1551 (1997)), the MTBA did not apply to actions taken by Federal
In that case, the Court
looked to the language in §707(a)
and found that the MTBA
applies to any "person, association, partnership, or
corporation," but did not explicitly state that it applies to actions
taken by the Federal government.
The Trial Court found for the
Humane Society and issued an injunction. FWS appealed.
The Trial Court looked at §703(a) and found that it clearly required a permit
before migratory birds could be killed.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that the MTBA was based on an
international treaty, and international treaties traditionally bind the
sovereign, so the Federal government could not say that they were exempt
from the obligations of the treaty.
See Missouri v. Holland (252 U.S. 416 (1920)).
The Court noted that Canada
applied the treaty to their Federal Agencies.
The Court found that even if
the criminal provisions of §707(a)
could not expose the Federal government to criminal liability for killing
birds, that did not exempt them from the general requirements of §703(a).
"Nothing in §703 turns on the identity of the
The Court explicitly
disagreed with the decision in Sierra Club v. Martin.