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Alaska v. Andrus

Citation: 7 ELR 20505
No. No. A77-51, 429 F. Supp. 958/9 ERC 2148/(D. Alaska, 04/11/1977)

In further litigation on the proposed state-run "wolf kill" on federal lands in Alaska, the federal district court in Alaska issues a summary judgment declaring that the Interior Secretary may prohibit the hunt but that a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) environmental impact statement (EIS) is not required before the hunt may be held. At issue is the state program to kill wolves to protect the western Arctic caribou herd. In Defenders of Wildlife v. Andrus, 7 ELR 20225 (D.D.C. Feb. 14, 1977), to which the state of Alaska was not a party, the federal district court for the District of Columbia issued a preliminary injunction against the wolf kill program. The court there held that the Interior Secretary has authority to stop the hunt because a substantial portion of it would be held on federal lands and that an EIS must be prepared before the hunt can begin because federal acquiescence to a state program is a major federal action within the ambit of NEPA. Alaska then filed this action for a preliminary injunction against the Secretary's order to that the hunt. The federal court in Alaska denied the preliminary injunction on grounds of judicial comity; the state then moved for summary judgment on the action for declaratory relief. Reversing its previous finding, the court holds that the BLM Organic Act, ELR 41458, on its face gives the Interior Secretary authority to prohibit the wolf kill on federal land. The court rejects the notion that the wolf kill program is a major federal action triggering NEPA's requirements because some affirmative federal action is required prior to the state's activity for NEPA to apply, and none has shown in this case. The nonfederal activity of the state-run wolf kill program does not become federal action merely because the Interior Secretary has the authority to regulate it.The court also rejects a motion to transfer venue to the District of Columbia because the action is essentially local in nature. Finally, the court states that issuing its final judgment is not an abuse of discretion because no confrontation is created with the District of Columbia court's action.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Avrum Gross, Attorney General; William T. Council, Geoffrey Haynes, Ass't Attorneys General
Department of Law, Pouch K, Juneau AK 99801
(907) 465-3600

Counsel for Defendant
G. Kent Edwards, U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 680, Anchorage AK 99510
(907) 277-1491

Dan A. Hensley, Ass't Regional Solicitor
Department of the Interior
1016 W. Sixth Ave., Suite 201, Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 265-5301

Counsel for Defendants-Intervenors Defenders of Wildlife and Natural Resources Defense Council
Hugh W. Fleischer
Rice, Hoppner & Hedland
1016 W. Sixth St., Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 279-5528

Karin P. Sheldon
Sheldon, Harmon & Roisman
1025 15th St., NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 833-9070

Counsel for Amicus Curiae Nana Regional Corporation, Inc.
Joseph Rudd
Ely, Guess & Rudd, P.C.
510 L St., Anchorage AK 99501
(907) 276-5121