Friends of Animals Lawsuit Against Deer Hunting Thrown Out

A federal judge has thrown out the Friends of Animals (FOA) lawsuit challenging the Fire Island National Seashore’s (FINS) plan to use hunting as a means to control the island’s white-tailed deer population.

FOA argued that FINS and the National Park Service (NPS) violated federal law because they did not consider a plan that utilizes only nonlethal options to cull the deer population. FOA claimed that FINS and NPS did not comply with the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires consideration of alternative methods of population control.

U.S. District Court Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein rejected the FOA argument, saying federal authorities did consider a range of approaches, but were under no legal obligation to select the animal rights group’s recommendation.

“While (the National Park Service) did not include a discussion of Plaintiff’s proposed 'nonlethal alternative,' as stated above, the fact remains that no statute or regulation required it to do so,” she wrote in a decision signed Tuesday and released Friday. “The Court finds that a reasonable range of alternatives were adequately presented in light of the Plan’s overarching purpose and varied objectives. These alternatives, in turn, were thoroughly explored and objectively evaluated such that a reasoned and intelligent choice could be made by NPS,” said a report.

The white-tailed deer management plan was released in December of 2015. The nearly 500-page plan outlined ways to control the deer population on the barrier island, with approximately 44 pages of alternative methods including hunting, birth control and fencing.  The plan includes public hunting for deer in the Fire Island Wilderness area.  Safari Club International commented in support of the plan, recommending that the NPS expand the area in which hunting would be authorized.

SCI has and continues advocating for hunting to help reduce ungulate populations on National Park Service units wherever permitted by law.  For areas where Congress has not directed the NPS to authorize or allow hunting, SCI has consistently advocated for the use of volunteers as agents of the NPS to help manage wildlife overpopulations.  Such programs on Rocky Mountain National Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and Wind Cave National Park for the reduction of elk populations have proven extremely successful.

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