Defenders of Wildlife v. Andrus
(The Ruby Lake Refuge Case)
11 Env't Rep. Cas. (BNA) 2098 (D.C.C. 1978)
455 F.Supp. 446 (D.C.C. 1978)

  • Under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act (MBCA), the President created the Ruby Lake Refuge in Nevada specifically for the purpose of being a bird sanctuary.
  • 40 years later, the Fish and Wildlife Service issued a new regulation that allowed motorboats on Ruby Lake.
  • Environmental groups (led by the Defenders) sued for an injunction.
    • The Defenders argued that allowing motorboats would harm bird populations and would be a violation of the Refuge Recreation Act of 1962 (RRA) (16 U.S.C. 460k).
    •             The RRA said that public recreation shall be permitted only to the extent that it is not inconsistent with the primary objectives for which the refuge is established.
    • FWS argued that it was within their discretion to develop rules and regulations concerning recreational activities within wildlife refuges.
  • The Trial Court found for the Defenders and granted an injunction.
    • The Trial Court found that FWS does have the authority to promulgate regulations about uses of the wildlife refuge.
    • However, the Court found that the executive order creating the refuge said that the primary purpose is to be a sanctuary for birds. The RRA does not give FWS the authority to balance recreational or economic interests against the primary purpose of the refuge.
    • The Court found that when FWS promulgates a regulation, they are required to include appropriate findings necessary to support the regulation.
      • Otherwise it would be arbitrary and capricious.
    • The Court remanded to FWS to come up with appropriate findings that the motorboats would not interfere with the primary purpose of the refuge.
  • FWS came back with new regulations that still allowed motorboats on Ruby Lake (although at a lower max speed).
  • The Trial Court issued a permanent injunction.
    • The Trial Court found that the amount of boating FWS suggested would still harm the bird and was therefore not "incidental or secondary use" as required by RRA.
    • The Court found that FWS determination that the boating would not interfere with the birds was not supported by scientific data and was therefore arbitrary and capricious.
  • Basically, this case said that if a refuge has been established for a particular purpose, it must be managed for that purpose, even if that purpose doesn't exactly match the overall goals of the FWS.