(CN) – A hunting group won the chance to intervene in an environmental lawsuit challenging the National Park Service’s refusal to consider reintroducing gray wolves to control overgrazing by elk in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
The 10th Circuit on Wednesday reversed a federal judge’s refusal to let the Safari Club intervene, saying the group has shown a “significant interest” in the outcome of the case.
The Safari Club supports the Park Service’s plan to reduce the oversized elk population in northern Colorado through a combination of gradual hunting and the use of fencing and distribution techniques.
WildEarth Guardians challenged the plan, claiming the agency should have considered reintroducing gray wolves into the area to help control overgrazing.
The Park Service’s plan calls for agency staff members and “authorized agents,” including Safari Club volunteers, to hunt, or “cull,” elk over time.
The Safari Club sought to intervene, saying it supports hunting as a conservation and management tool. The club said its interests would be “impaired or impeded” by a ruling for WildEarth Guardians, as its members enjoy hunting and want to prevent the Park Service from using gray wolves to manage the herds.
The three-judge panel said the lower court should not have blocked Safari Club from intervening.
“Safari Club’s articulated interest in furthering the use of culling as a means of wildlife management and conservation … is not too speculative under our case law to support intervention as of right,” Judge Timothy Tymkovich wrote.
The group has also shown that its interests would be significantly impaired by the court action WildEarth Guardian seeks: an order barring the National Park Service from hunting elk, the court ruled.
“If WildEarth is granted the relief it requests, the NPS would be prohibited from employing culling as a means of managing and conserving wildlife at RMNP. Such a result would directly impair Safari Club’s interest,” Tymkovich wrote.
The appellate panel reversed and told the district court to consider whether the Park Service can adequately represent Safari Club’s interests, an issue it never reached.