April 2, 2023

Federal Judge Rules Wildlife Refuge Hunting Illegal

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U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina has ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service broke the law in expanding hunting opportunities in 37 of the U.S.’s over 500 wildlife refuges. The judge said that the USFWS did not consider the effects of such actions on the overall system of wildlife refuges.

According an article yesterday in the Washington Post, Urbina ruled that the government never considered the overall consequences of expanding hunting opportunities in some of the refuges. Even though the agency reviewed each refuge on a case by case matter and made their decisions based on scientific need and whether hunting was compatible with the refuge’s mission, the judge said that was illegal. No consideration was taken as to how this would effect the entire wildlife refuge system, he said.

And who is behind the case filed in federal court? The Humane Society of the United States. A lawyer for HSUS had this to say.

“No one was looking at the cumulative effect when you open 37 refuges,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president of the Humane Society of the United States and an attorney in the case. “You can’t have each refuge sticking their head in the sand.”

I realize that my matchbook isn’t full of matches and perhaps a few that I do have won’t light but I’m trying my darndest to understand this ruling. If this isn’t simply a case of the HSUS attempting to skew reality to further their goal of ending hunting completely, I don’t know what is.

I strongly believe that had the USFWS made a broad ruling to open up hunting opportunities in all wildlife refuges, a lawsuit would have been filed claiming the department failed to consider the need for hunting on a refuge by refuge basis. When the USFWS follows proceedure and practices sound science in determining the need for hunting on a refuge by refuge basis, it is now deemed illegal.

When Teddy Roosevelt began the wildlife refuge system back in 1903, the idea was to provide a place where wildlife would be protected. This would provide spaces free from development. What people like members of HSUS refuse to understand is that protection of wildlife doesn’t necessarily mean you chunk off a piece of land for the animals and let it be from here to eternity. The idea to protect means providing a healthy habitat.

Science has proven time and again that hunting is perhaps the best means of regulating wildlife populations and managing a healthy wildlife population. Mother Nature can be cruel. Overgrown wildlife densities can wreck havoc on its own kind and spread disease to other species including mankind. When too many animals crowd areas that do not provide enough food and protection within that habitat, starvation unmercifully kills.

The judge refused in his ruling to overturn the practice of hunting in the 37 refuges and ordered both sides to come up with solutions. This should prove and interesting negotiation. HSUS says that hunting should be banned or at least scaled back significantly. The USFWS says it is firmly committed to continue using hunting as part of their management plans where hunting is compatible.

Tom Remington