Judges allow hunters to sue Fish and Wildlife Service over elephant trophy ban (US/Tanzania)


Andrea Noble, The Washington Times 

Date Published

A federal court has revived a lawsuit brought by big game hunters who challenged the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s ban on the import of elephant hunting trophies from Tanzania.

A legal challenge of the ban brought by the Safari Club and the National Rifle Association was dismissed in 2014 on grounds that no member of either group actually had applied for and been denied a permit to import elephant trophies and therefore lacked standing to bring a case.

But the hunters’ advocacy groups appealed, arguing that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s ban was final and that their members had no obligation to exhaust administrative remedies.

In a 15-page opinion issued Tuesday, a three-judge panel from the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit agreed and remanded the case to the lower court.

“For its part, Safari Club insists that seeking a permit would have been futile given that the Service had determined and publicly announced that no permits would issue for Tanzanian elephants killed in 2014,” Judge David S. Tatel wrote in the opinion. “According to the Service, however, futility can never excuse a non-applicant’s failure to seek a permit, adding that even were there a futility exception, Safari Club has failed to show futility here. We disagree with the Service on both counts.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service previously has allowed trophy imports after making determinations that repatriation of such items “would not be detrimental to the survival of the species.” The agency says that legal, well-regulated sport hunting can benefit conservation efforts “by providing incentives to local communities to conserve the species and by putting much-needed revenue back into conservation.”