Law School Case Brief
WildEarth Guardians v. Nat'l Park Serv. - 604 F.3d 1192 (10th Cir. 2010)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) entitles a movant to intervene as of right if: (1) the movant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction that is the subject of the action; (2) the disposition of the litigation may, as a practical matter, impair or impede the movant's interest; and (3) the existing parties do not adequately represent the movant's interest. Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2). The United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit follows a somewhat liberal line in allowing intervention. The factors of Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) are intended to capture the circumstances in which the practical effect on the prospective intervenor justifies its participation in the litigation, and those factors are not rigid, technical requirements.
The National Park Service (NPS) adopted a plan to reduce the negative effects of an oversized elk population at Rocky Mountain National Park, i.e., combining gradual lethal removal, fencing, and dispersal. The plan called for "NPS Staff and authorized agents" to lethally reduce, i.e., "cull," the elk over time. After the NPS announced which elk management plan it had chosen, WildEarth Guardians, an environmental interest organization opposed to the adopted plan, filed an action contesting the plan in district court. WildEarth claimed that in formulating the plan the NPS violated the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4347, by not considering the introduction of predatory, fertile gray wolves as a means of managing RMNP's elk population. WildEarth also claimed that the plan violated the NPS Organic Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1-4, and the Rocky Mountain National Park Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 191-195a, because "culling" is "hunting" and those laws prohibit hunting in the national park. Safari Club, an organization which promoted the use of hunting, among other things, as a conservation and management tool, moved to intervene as a defendant in WildEarth's suit against the NPS. In its motion to intervene and supporting memorandum, Safari Club elaborated on its interest in supporting the NPS's elk management plan, including its endorsement of sustainable use wildlife management and conservation techniques, its members' interests in hunting and otherwise enjoying wildlife in and near RMNP, its approval of the use of volunteers in culling activities, and its desire to prevent gray wolves from being used to control RMNP's elk population. The district court denied Safari Club's motion to intervene, finding that its interests were either not at significant risk of impairment or were too speculative. Safari Club appealed.
Did Safari Club have a right to intervene in WildEarth’s suit against NPS?
The appellate court found that the district court erred in denying the Safari Club's motion to intervene under Fed. R. Civ. P. 24(a)(2) because it demonstrated that it had a substantial interest in the district court proceedings and that its interest in maintaining and furthering the use of culling as a wildlife management and conservation tool at Rocky Mountain National Park and other national parks might have been impaired if the district court decided in the organization's favor. Hence, the appellate court reversed the district court’s judgment.
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