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Defenders of Wildlife v. Andrus

ELR Citation: 7 ELR 20225
Nos. No. 77-0212, 9 ERC 2111/(D.D.C., 02/14/1977) Injunction issued

Granting plaintiff's motion for preliminary injunctive relief, the court enjoins the aerial killing of wolves by the state of Alaska on lands under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) pending completion of an environmental impact statement pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Alaska seeks to carry out the "wolf kill" to protect caribou herds, and defendants assert that Alaska has the authority to manage wildlife on federal lands within its borders. The lands involved in this action are primarily "d-2" lands, which were withdrawn pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) for possible inclusion by Congress in any of the national park, forest, wildlife refuge, or wild and scenic river systems. In finding that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the merits, the court holds that ANCSA and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (the BLM Organic Act) vest in BLM the authority to prevent persons licensed by Alaska from killing wolves in d-2 lands. Looking at the legislative history of ANCSA, the court concludes that Congress intended the d-2 lands and their resources be preserved until Congress determines their use. Plaintiffs have shown that the wolf kill could adversely affect the resources and thus impair Congress' latitude. Furthermore, the Secretary of the Interior has authority under the BLM Organic Act to prevent the wolf kill on federal lands under the obligation to manage federal lands pursuant to multiple-use principles and to administer the wildlife thereupon. The court does not elaborate on the Secretary's authority to administer the d-2 lands, the Secretary's authority to close the federal lands to non-sport, state-licensed hunting, or any obligation under ANCSA to assess the environmental impact of actions on d-2 lands. In addition, the court finds not only that the wolf kill is a "major federal action" within NEPA's ambit but that BLM's refusal to do an environmental impact statement would likely be found arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to law. The irreparable injury to plaintiffs was the substantial likelihood that defendants failed to comply with NEPA. In addition, there is the substantial likelihood that, unless enjoined, the wolf kill would irreparably harm the natural environment in the d-2 lands. Defendants would not be substantially harmed by a preliminary injunction, and the harm to Alaska does not outweigh the potential, unevaluated harm to the resources involved.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Karrin P. Sheldon, Ruby I. Compton, Thomas B. Stoel, Jr.
Natural Resources Defense Council
917 15th St., NW, Washington DC 20005
(202) 737-5000

Counsel for Defendants
John E. Lindskold
Department of Justice
Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2654