Elk NetworkHunters Victorious in Court

Conservation , News Releases | March 18, 2019

MISSOULA, Mont.—The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of hunters on a game retrieval program in the Kaibab National Forest of northern Arizona. Environmental groups appealed a previous ruling by the Arizona U.S. District Court, which they also lost.

“This is a big win for hunters,” said Kyle Weaver, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “Hunters play an important role in helping wildlife officials effectively manage the populations of elk and other wildlife. This ruling helps make that more of a reality.”

In cooperation with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, three districts in the Kaibab National Forest previously issued a travel management rule allowing hunters to leave designated routes up to one mile but only to retrieve game and not to scout, hunt or for any other reason. The goal of the program is to assist with timely retrieval of harvested bison while supporting effective herd management practices. In certain circumstances, retrieval of large game like bison or elk by motorized methods mitigates potential spoiling of quality protein. 

Environmentalists unsuccessfully argued the rule would lead to widespread damage to the forest, but the three-judge court ruled any impacts on the environment “did not raise substantial concerns.”

A previous chairman of the Arizona Game and Fish Commission noted it was interesting that environmental groups targeted hunters but did not challenge other legitimate off-highway vehicle use in the forest. He suggested they filed the lawsuit “more out of opposition to hunting than true concern for our natural resources.”

“This litigation is the latest example of environmentalists not recognizing the vital role hunting plays in wildlife management,” added Weaver.

RMEF supported the Kaibab National Forest, State of Arizona and sportsmen and women in this case from the beginning and has an active interest in the region. Since 1988, RMEF invested more than $1.1 million in habitat and wildlife water development work on the Kaibab. Additionally, RMEF volunteers supplied thousands of hours of time by carrying out habitat stewardship work there.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of nearly 235,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org, elknetwork.com or 800-CALL ELK.