Trappers Prevail in Maine Lynx Incidental Take Lawsuit

Trappers in Maine and the state’s Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife won a court battle Feb. 15 against a lawsuit filed by four animal rights organizations regarding “incidental take” in regard to the Endangered Species Act.

The ruling was handed down by U.S. District Judge Jon Levy. The Sportsman’s Alliance Foundation joined trappers and the Maine DIFW in fighting the lawsuit. Here is the press release from the Foundation about the ruling:

The Canada Lynx is found in some parts of the United States, including Maine, where a lawsuit was being fought against animal rights organizations about incidental take by trappers. (PHOTO: USFWS Digital Library)

The Canada Lynx is found in some parts of the United States, including Maine, where a lawsuit was being fought against animal rights organizations about incidental take by trappers. (PHOTO: USFWS Digital Library)

On Wednesday, Feb. 15, U.S. District Judge Jon Levy issued his ruling in a lawsuit that sought to revoke the state of Maine’s Incidental Take Permit (ITP), which would open individual trappers to Endangered Species Act (ESA) violations. Judge Levy ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s use and application of ITPs were lawful and in keeping with the requirements of the ESA.

The ruling is a clear victory for the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, trappers in Maine and the Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife. In his ruling, Judge Levy found that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “actions were in keeping with the requirements of the Endangered Species Act…the National Environmental Policy Act…and the Administrative Procedure Act…”

“We are extremely pleased that District Court Judge Levy has sided with reasonable and responsible management,” said Evan Heusinkveld, Sportsmen’s Alliance president and CEO. “Today’s clear ruling is nothing short of a full victory for trappers, but also hunters and anglers, too. This case had far-reaching implications for how Endangered Species Act policies would be implemented. If anti-hunting organizations can ban all trapping in the areas where protected lynx are found, what’s would stop them from banning fishing in streams or rivers that contains endangered fish species?”

The case, filed by the anti-hunting and anti-trapping groups Center for Biological Diversity, the Wildlife Alliance of Maine, the Animal Welfare Institute and Friends of Animals, was essentially a backdoor attempt to use the Endangered Species Act to stop trapping in the state. At the heart of the legal battle were Incidental Take Permits, which are granted under the ESA and provide for limited, incidental taking of federally protected species. Without such protection, individual trappers and state wildlife agencies could be held liable for ESA violations every time a lynx was accidentally caught in a legal trap.

“Today is a great day for Maine trappers, and this judgment vindicates the great work of the Maine Department of Inland Fish and Wildlife,” said James Cote, director of government affairs for the Maine Trappers Association. “We are so pleased with this outcome, which is positive for trappers and Canadian lynx alike, and that wouldn’t have been possible without our partnership with the Sportsmen’s Alliance.”

Canada lynx, which are listed as a threatened species in the U.S. due to fragmented populations at the southernmost range of their habitat, are abundant north of the border in Canada. In fact, there are many who believe that the lynx populations should be removed from the ESA altogether.

This is not the first time that the Sportsmen’s Alliance and Maine trappers have prevailed in trapping litigation. In 2010, we successfully defended against a similar lawsuit that also tried to use the Endangered Species Act to stop trapping. That case paved the way for trapping to continue.

Joining the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation in the most recent case was the Maine Trappers Association and the National Trappers Association.

insoles