After the previous Administration’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) adopted a regulation prohibiting certain hunting methods (e.g., hunting bear over bait) on National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) in Alaska, Congress and the President said “not so fast.” Using the Congressional Review Act, Congress passed and the President signed a “Joint Resolution” nullifying the FWS’s regulation. Hunters can once again use the state-authorized hunting methods.
But passage of the Joint Resolution is neither the start nor the end of the story. Prior to passage of the Joint Resolution, SCI filed a lawsuit challenging the FWS regulation, a National Park Service (NPS) regulation—similar to the FWS regulation—governing hunting on National Preserves in Alaska, and a FWS regulation specific to the Kenai NWR. SCI’s lawsuit is not the only challenge to these federal hunting restrictions. The State of Alaska and the Alaska Professional Hunters Association have separately challenged the FWS regulation and the NPS regulation. Passage of the Joint Resolution means that SCI and the other parties likely will not have to litigate their claims against the FWS regulation, but will continue to pursue their claims regarding the NPS regulation and the Kenai regulation.
After Congress and the President passed the Joint Resolution, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), an anti-hunting group, filed a lawsuit to challenge the Congressional Review Act as unconstitutional and the Joint Resolution as unlawful. In short, CBD wants to reinstate the prohibitions on certain hunting methods on NWRs in Alaska, and curtail Congress’ and the President’s ability to nullify harmful federal regulations. On May 4, 2017, SCI, together with the NRA, filed papers with the federal court in Alaska seeking to intervene in the case to defend the Joint Resolution and the state-authorized hunting methods.
This case is certain to garner widespread attention. Not only does it seek to undo the Joint Resolution, but it attacks Congress’ and the President’s powers under the Congressional Review Act. While CBD’s primary purpose may be to reinstate hunting restrictions on Alaska’s NWRs, their lawsuit could interfere with other actions that the current Administration has taken to undo regulations adopted in the waning days of the previous Administration. Congress, with the President’s approval, has recently used the Congressional Review Act more than a dozen times. Many other organizations and individuals may decide to try to fight CBD’s lawsuit. No matter how crowded it gets, SCI and the NRA hope to be there to defend the interests of their members and the hunting community in general.