Federal Court in Arizona Rules for Sportsmen and Conservationists

bighorn sheep
Federal Court in Arizona Rules for Sportsmen and Conservationists

Charlotte, NC –-(Ammoland.com)- In May, sportsmen were the winners when a federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s conservation efforts in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.

The NRA, along with several other hunting and conservation groups, has been active in supporting USFWS’s position since the suit was filed against it in 2008.

The case was the result of a suit filed by anti-hunting group Wilderness Watch, with the support of other “stay out of the woods” organizations, who objected to the USFWS’s building of two artificial water sources aimed at supporting a stable bighorn sheep population. Wilderness Watch argued that building the water sources violated the federal Wilderness Act’s ban on man-made structures on land covered by the act, including the Kofa Refuge. The USFWS defended its actions by arguing that the water sources developed for the conservation of bighorn sheep fall under an exception to the act, which provides that “wilderness areas shall be devoted to public purposes of recreation, scenic, scientific, educational, conservation, and historical use.” Conservation of bighorn sheep was understood to be a primary reason for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1939 establishment of what was originally called the Kofa Game Range.

In December 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took up the case after the anti-hunting groups appealed an earlier U.S. District Court ruling in support of the USFWS.

In its opinion, the Ninth Circuit determined that there were limitations to the Wilderness Act’s prohibition on structures, stating, “The Wilderness Act requires a delicate balancing between Congress’ desire to maintain lands untouched by humans and Congress’ recognition that such an ideal is subject to some practical limitations,”

However, the Ninth Circuit also determined that the USFWS had failed to justify why the structures were necessary. Therefore, the Ninth Circuit reversed the earlier lower court ruling and returned the case to the District Court.

In May, the district court in Arizona determined that the water sources can stay in place while the USFWS produces materials providing an adequate justification for building the structures.

While the case is not yet over, this ruling is an important victory for sportsmen and conservationists, who seek to strike a balance between enjoying our wilderness today and preserving it for future generations.


Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

NRA - Institute for Legislative Action

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