Thursday, November 08, 2012

Court Rejects Challenge To Scope of Fish and Wildlife Service's Bald Eagle Permit

In Northern Arapaho Tribe v. Ashe, (D WY, Nov. 5, 2012), a Wyoming federal district court upheld the action of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that granted Northern Arapaho tribe members permission to kill up to two bald eagles per year for religious purposes, but not on their own reservation in west-central Wyoming. The court held that plaintiffs lack standing to seek declaratory and injunctive relief in their challenge to the two and a half year delay in granting of the permit because they are unlikely to suffer similar delays in the future. Then the court rejected plaintiffs' claim that their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act were violated by the limitation in their permit that prevents them from taking eagles on the Wind River Reservation that they share with the Eastern Shoshone tribe. The Eastern Shoshones oppose the taking of eagles on the reservation for religious and cultural reasons.  The court upheld the exclusion, saying:
The FWS was between a rock and a hard place. No matter what policy it chose---either allowing or disallowing eagle take within the Reservation-it would have furthered its compelling interest with regard to one tribe and disserved its compelling interest with regard to the other....  The FWS's alternative advances and balances the FWS's competing compelling interests in fostering and protecting both tribes' cultures and religions.
(See prior related posting.) AP reports on the decision.

UPDATE: The court refused to certify its order for interlocutory appeal. 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 36443 (D WY, Jan. 23, 2013).