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E-M:/ Sierra Club lawsuit on Pittman Robertson



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Enviro-Mich message from "Anne M. Woiwode" <anne.woiwode@prodigy.net>
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Enviro-Michers:

Tim Flynn has offered an excellent response to the inflammatory and 
inaccurate press release put out yesterday by MUCC, the Wildlife 
Conservation Fund of America and the Ruffed Grouse Society.  Since the 
press release was not clear, it should be noted that the three 
organizations have sought amicus status, which would allow them to jointly 
submit a brief, but not to become parties to the suit.

At the bottom of this message is a one page summary of our lawsuit that I 
hope will answer questions for those confused by this rather complex 
issue.  For those who would like to go to the source, I have posted a copy 
of the Sierra Club's complaint at:

http://my.voyager.net/woiwode/annestuff/OCRCOMP.doc

  I think our complaint is very clear about what we are seeking and why, 
but I will also comment briefly below on the comments from the three groups 
in their press release to help clarify the issues as well.

Neither WCFA, MUCC nor RGS ever sought to meet with Sierra Club to discuss 
what we are trying to do, either before or after the lawsuit was filed last 
October.  Several other conservation organizations have in fact asked us to 
meet with them and we have had often spirited discussions about the issues. 
While the groups we have spoken with may have continued to disagree with 
us, I think they at least are clearer on what has motivated us to continue 
this effort over the past five and one half years and why we believe the 
law is clearly on our side.  In fact, who knows, maybe WCFA, MUCC and RGS 
could have worked WITH us as we tried to get the US Fish and Wildlife 
Service and the DNR to obey the law while also avoiding hitches in 
continued funding for wildlife management activities.

One continual misstatement that needs to be addressed is any attempt to 
imply that Sierra Club is opposed to hunting. This issue has nothing to do 
with hunting -- it  has to do with the funding of wildlife habitat 
management activities by a federal agency, the USFWS, and complying with 
federal laws. Sierra Club's policy on wildlife and native plant management 
can be found at:

http://www.sierraclub.org/policy/conservation/wildlife.asp

and I have included the following excerpt from the policy:

"Wildlife and Native Plant Management, Sport Hunting And Fishing 
--  Wildlife and native plant management should emphasize maintenance and 
restoration of healthy, viable native plant and animal populations, their 
habitats, and ecological processes. Acceptable management approaches 
include both regulated periodic hunting and fishing when based on 
sufficient scientifically valid biological data and when consistent with 
all other management purposes and when necessary total protection of 
particular species or populations."

I consider it particularly unfortunate that MUCC has chosen, without even 
speaking with Sierra Club, to jump on this bandwagon.  Instead of 
discussion, we have been forced to write responses to attacks in Michigan 
Out of Doors, and even then MUCC has not sought to discuss our differences. 
MUCC sponsored Proposal G which sought to guarantee that management of 
wildlife would occur on the basis of science instead of emotion.  Yet in 
the press release, MUCC seems to argue that Michigan's wildlife are better 
served by blindly following the practices of the past 70 years, and 
fighting against the legally mandated use of objective scientific analysis 
and public disclosure.

MUCC was founded on the premise that public involvement in management of 
the natural resources of this state was essential, and that is another part 
of our reason for bringing this case.  If the courts agree with us, in 
fact, then all individuals and groups, including those opposing us, will 
have an equal platform for arguing for the kind of management they believe 
is best.  We obviously believe that given an objective review the 
activities we are concerned about would be found to be environmentally 
destructive, but even so the law doesn't require that no environmental harm 
occur. Instead, it requires disclosure of that harm and the open 
consideration of a legitimate range of alternatives, with the fundamental 
premise that the best decisions can be made when the best information is 
used.  I would hope that someday when the frothing rhetoric has been swept 
aside that the leaders of MUCC would recognize this is as following closely 
in the footsteps of the tradition they started in Michigan of calling for 
public, open debate about how best to manage our precious natural resources.

Please feel free to let us know if you have concerns or questions about 
this -- we will happily respond to questions on Enviro-Mich from those 
interested in understanding the issues better.

Anne Woiwode

Sierra Club et al vs. USFWS et al

The Sierra Club has brought suit against the US Fish and Wildlife Service 
(USFWS) and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) to force 
them to comply with the provisions of the National Environmental Policy 
Act, the Endangered Species Act and the Federal Aid in Wildlife Habitat 
Restoration Act of 1937 (a.k.a. Pittman Robertson Act) in the distribution 
of grant funds to the states under the Pittman Robertson Act.

Issues at stake:  The Pittman Robertson Act (P-R) is a visionary law that 
was passed in 1937 to help restore degraded habitat for wild birds and 
mammals.   P-R is one of the largest programs for funding habitat 
manipulation activities in the country, even before it is matched to state 
hunting license fees. A federal excise tax on hunting equipment is 
collected under P-R to give grants to the fifty state wildlife agencies for 
habitat acquisition and management activities.  However, the US Fish and 
Wildlife Service, which administers the grants under Pittman Robertson, has 
never fully complied with the National Environmental Policy Act in 
approving the grants to states for wildlife habitat management activities.

The Sierra Club's fundamental concern in bringing this litigation is that 
P-R project grants, regardless of size or scope, have been and continue to 
be approved by the USFWS without consideration of the environmental effects 
of the projects, without disclosure of those effects to the public and 
without consideration of a range of alternatives for management 
activities.   Sierra Club also found irregularities such as failure to 
perform proper Section 7 consultations under the Endangered Species Act in 
the review of grants in Michigan, and failure to abide by provisions of P-R 
itself regarding providing details about activities to be funded.

While the situation in Michigan may be particularly extreme, it clearly 
illustrates the problems.  Michigan's 1995 Statewide Wildlife Management 
Project was approved by the USFWS and categorically excluded from 
environmental review, despite proposing annual "regeneration of 40,000 
acres of forest lands using silvicultural techniques, planting wildlife 
food crops, planting trees and shrubs, maintaining and developing openings 
for wildlife, managing wetlands, using federally registered herbicides in 
accordance with law, maintaining roads and dams and the elimination of 
predators, and non-endemic species." (excerpt from MNDR's answer to the 
complaint)  While this project was later withdrawn and broken up into 
multiple smaller grant applications, Sierra Club believes the proposed 
actions clearly continued to exceed the threshold for environmental review, 
both cumulatively and individually, but the subsequent projects were again 
categorically excluded from such review.

In addition, the USFWS failed to assure that endangered species protections 
were adequate in the grants. Section 7 consultations under ESA were not 
properly conducted, and the state's proposed steps for assuring review of 
T&E species was clearly inadequate. Lastly, the Pittman Robertson Act 
itself calls for specificity in project proposals which was sorely lacking 
in Michigan's applications.  The 1995 grant application listed the location 
of the intended work by listing virtually every unit of public land 
ownership in the state, and later grants were only marginally more 
specific.  In addition, no specific details of what kind of work was 
proposed to be conducted on what site were spelled out at all, making it 
impossible to assess the actual impacts of the proposed activities.

Sierra Club's objective in bringing this lawsuit is to assure that the 
USFWS considers the environmental impacts of each proposal and seek public 
input as part of that analysis. The intent of P-R, the restoration of 
habitat for wild birds and mammals, is an extremely good goal, but the 
failure to abide by the law has contributed to mismanagement of wildlife 
habitat.  The focus of this lawsuit is on the process required for the 
agencies to actually properly assess the effects of the proposed 
activities, the requirements to disclose those effects and the obligation 
to garner public input regarding those activities.  In Michigan, where 
state voters adopted an initiative a few years ago that mandated that the 
state use "sound science" in considering wildlife management activities, 
the success of this lawsuit will in fact go to further that end.

END

<<-   <<-   <<-   <<-   <<-   <<-  ->>  ->>  ->>  ->>  ->>
Anne Woiwode, Program Director, Michigan Forest Biodiversity Program
Sierra Club Mackinac Chapter, 109 East Grand River Avenue, Lansing, MI 48906
phone: 517-484-2372                                       email: 
anne.woiwode@sierraclub.org



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