Defenders of Wildlife v. Andrus
(The Alaska Wolf Kill Case)
627 F.2d 1238 (D.C. Cir. 1980)
The Alaska Department of Fish
and Game (ADFG) announced a plan to control wolf populations by shooting
them from helicopters.
A lot of the wolves that
ADFG intended to kill lived on federal lands that were under the control
of the Department of the Interior (DOI).
ADFG wanted to kill the
wolves because the wolves ate moose, so theoretically less wolves meant
more moose that hunters could shoot at.
Environmental groups (led by
the Defenders) asked DOI to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS) about the effects of the wolf kill. DOI refused.
The Defenders sued for an
The Defenders argued that
killing the wolves would actually reduce the moose population by reducing
natural selection pressures. In addition, they argued that killing the
wolves would cause a lot of other effects in a lot of other species on
The Defenders argued that Federal
Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) required DOI to evaluate the effects of the
The Trial Court found for the
Defenders and issued an injunction. DOI appealed.
The Appellate Court reversed
and allowed the wolf kill.
The Appellate Court found
that under FLPMA §302(b) the
State government has the primary responsibility for the management of
wildlife programs within the State.
The Court found that DOI
arguably has the discretion to preempt State wildlife management
programs. However this does not obligate DOI to do so.
Basically FLPMA gives DOI the right to take action if they
want to, but if they chose not to it doesn't require them to.
Of course choosing not to
ask is really an action in itself isn't it? Couldn't it be arbitrary
and capricious to fail to act?