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Defenders of Wildlife v. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

ELR Citation: 51 ELR 20081
Nos. 2:20-cv-3657-BHH, (D.S.C., 05/12/2021) (Hendricks, J.)

A district court granted an environmental group's motion for preliminary injunction in a challenge to FWS' alleged allowance of commercial horseshoe crab harvesting in the Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge. The group argued the Service violated the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act (Refuge Improvement Act) by, among other things, failing to issue a special permit to harvesters authorizing the commercial activity. FWS moved to dismiss, arguing the group ignored the fact that the Service did not have authority over authorization of commercial horseshoe crab harvesting, due to the terms of a lease the federal government entered into reserving to South Carolina the authority over commercial horseshoe crab harvesting. The court found that South Carolina's authority over certain fishing activities, commercial or not, did not override FWS' independent responsibilities and duties under the Refuge Improvement Act, and that the group made a clear showing it was likely to succeed on the merits of its claim. It therefore granted the preliminary injunction, prohibiting commercial harvesting of horseshoe crabs in the refuge except as authorized by special permit.