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Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell

United States District Court for the District of Columbia

September 30, 2016, Decided; September 30, 2016, Filed

Civil Action No. 14-0670 (RCL); 15-cv-01026 (RCL) (consolidated briefing)

Opinion

 [*51]  MEMORANDUM OPINION

Plaintiffs Safari Club International and the National Rifle Association challenge the federal government's suspension of imports of trophies from elephants sport-hunted in Zimbabwe. On April 4, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ("the Service") suspended imports of these trophies on an interim basis. On July 31, 2014, the Service published notice finalizing the April decision, prohibiting imports of trophies from elephants sport-hunted from April 4, 2014 through the remainder of the year. And on March 26, 2015, it announced a suspension of imports for the 2015 hunting seasons and future hunting seasons. The Service explained that it suspended imports because it could no longer make the finding required under its regulations "that the killing of the animal whose trophy is intended for import would enhance survival of the species" — referred to as an enhancement finding. Plaintiffs assert that the three decisions are invalid due to a number of procedural defects and because they are arbitrary and capricious. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment in part on the issue that the Service failed to comply with its [**4]  commitment not to change the enhancement finding before publishing notice in the Federal Register. It will deny plaintiffs' motion on all other issues. The Court will grant defendants' motion for summary judgement in part on all issues except it will deny the motion on the issue of its commitment to publish notice of changes in the Federal Register. The Court will also order that the effective date of the April 2014 interim suspension is May 12, 2014, not April 4, 2014.

LEGAL FRAMEWORK AND BACKGROUND

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213 F. Supp. 3d 48 *; 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 136235 **

SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL, et al., Plaintiffs, v. SALLY M. R. JEWELL, in her official capacity as Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, et al., Defendants, and FRIENDS OF ANIMALS, et al., Defendant-Intervenors.

Subsequent History: Affirmed in part and reversed in part by, Remanded by Safari Club Int'l v. Zinke, 878 F.3d 316, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 26317 (D.C. Cir., Dec. 22, 2017)

Prior History: Safari Club Int'l v. Jewell, 47 F. Supp. 3d 29, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 76988 (D.D.C., June 6, 2014)

CORE TERMS

elephants, enhancement, imports, species, special rule, trophies, poaching, regulations, hunting, notice, sport-hunted, estimate, binding, conservation, preamble, survival, wildlife, quota, endangered species, new information, suspension, export, threatened species, hunters, plaintiffs', conditions, surveys, treaty, management plan, adjudications