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 FWS.
    • 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 agencies.
      • 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 perpetrator."
    • The Court explicitly disagreed with the decision in Sierra Club v. Martin.