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 injunction.
    • 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 Federal lands.
    • The Defenders argued that Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) required DOI to evaluate the effects of the wolf kill.
  • 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?