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Safari Club International v. Department of Interior

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20186
Nos. 1:14-cv-00670, (D.C. Cir., 12/06/2016)

The D.C. Circuit reversed a lower court decision that two hunting organizations could not challenge FWS’ indefinite suspension of import permits of African elephant trophies from Tanzania. The hunters challenged FWS’ 2014 suspension on the grounds that the suspension was legislative and required notice-and-comment rulemaking. The hunters also argued that exhaustion was not necessary because of futility. But because no member of the hunting organizations had applied for a permit, the lower court dismissed the case for lack of final agency action and for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The appellate court, however, reversed, rejecting FWS’ argument that the suspension was not final and that a party could apply for, and receive, a permit under the right conditions. This possibility is illusory, as evidenced by an internal agency memo that directed all applications for 2014 to be denied. The court also ruled that FWS’ argument that the hunters failed to exhaust their administrative remedies is “absurd.” FWS had nothing to reconsider, as the hunters never sought, nor were obliged to seek, a permit for 2014. The case was therefore reversed and remanded.