STATE PREVAILS IN LAND MANAGEMENT SUIT|
LANSING--Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials
today noted that conservationists around the state and
nation won a major victory with the March 6 US District
Court decision rendered in favor of the Michigan Department
of Natural Resources and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
In the case of Sierra Club v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service,
plaintiffs Sierra Club, Ann Woiwode, Marvin Roberson and Tim
Flynn alleged that DNR and USFWS illegally categorically
excluded management activities performed in part with
federal Pittman Robertson (PR) Funds.
Pittman Robertson Funds are derived from an excise tax
imposed on purchasers of sporting arms, ammunition, and
archery equipment since 1937. The money finances programs to
restore, conserve, manage and enhance wild birds and
mammals, as well as to educate hunters and archers. The PR
program is the largest and most successful wildlife
restoration and management program in the world.
"Essentially, Sierra Club wanted to require DNR and USFWS to
prepare an endless litany of unnecessary environmental
documentation," said DNR Director K.L. Cool. "Pittman
Robertson funds are used for projects that protect and
preserve our outdoor heritage. Had this suit been
successful, it would have paralyzed the state's ability to
use PR money for its intended purpose."
The suit further sought to force the USFWS to withhold
funding from DNR for such activities as maintenance of
facilities, including roads and trails used for public
access and structures that protect wetlands, as well as
barriers to prevent destruction of wildlife habitat by motor
vehicles. Sierra Club challenged the funding which supports
planning activities that encourage public input and
ecosystem management, as well as funding for leasing private
land for hunting access.
In granting summary judgement for the defendants, the judge
dismissed all of the plaintiff's arguments against DNR and
USFWS and further informed the plaintiffs that they did not
have standing to bring the suit.
It was welcome news not only to the agencies, but to myriad
conservation organizations that submitted briefs decrying
the suit, including the International Association of Fish
and Wildlife Agencies (which represents conservation
departments in all 50 states), Michigan United Conservation
Clubs, the Wildlife Conservation Fund of America, the
National Wild Turkey Federation, Safari Club International,
and the Ruffed Grouse Society.
"Obviously, we were disappointed at having to spend hundreds
of staff hours and tens of thousands of dollars - money that
should have been directed to long-established wildlife
management programs -- to defend a case with no standing or
merit," Cool said. "But, at the same time, we were very
pleased that such a thorough review of our land management
processes resulted in such a clearly supportive decision. We
will continue working to manage Michigan's public lands to
preserve our outdoor heritage, and maintain this state's
diverse, invaluable resources for present and future
generations to enjoy."
A copy of the judge's decision is available under the "High
Profile" section of the court's Web site,