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Trump administration faces lawsuit over hunting expansion at nearly 150 wildlife refuges, hatcheries
The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) faces a forthcoming lawsuit over its decision to open up or expand hunting at 147 national wildlife refuges and fish hatcheries.
The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the agency Tuesday, arguing that the government didn't fully analyze the effects of the decision on endangered species including birds and jaguars.
"We're going to court to ensure that our nation's wildlife refuges can actually provide refuges for wildlife," said Collette Adkins, the center's carnivore conservation director, in a statement.
"We've never before seen such a massive expansion of bad hunting practices on these public lands. There's no sound reason for this, and the Fish and Wildlife Service has either ignored or downplayed the many risks that hunting poses to endangered wildlife," Adkins added.
An agency spokesperson called the intent to sue a "meritless attack from a radical special interest organization."
"From the early days of the Trump administration, increasing recreational access to public lands for all Americans has been a top priority," the spokesperson said. "We are confident in the science and the work that led to our historic expansion of hunting fishing opportunities on public lands."
In August, the FWS finalized a rule opening up or expanding hunting and fishing in an additional 2.3 million acres.
Administration officials touted the efforts as creating greater access for sportsmen, with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt saying at the time, "We continue to take significant actions to further conservation initiatives and support sportsmen and women who are America's true conservationists."
But environmentalists expressed concerns that the weakened protections could harm ecosystems and jeopardize protected species by allowing hunters to go after more predators and that other types of animals could be accidentally shot or harmed by lead ammunition and tackle that can be toxic for birds.
The Trump administration has taken other steps to increase hunting access and was recently sued over its decision to ease restrictions on hunting bear cubs and wolf pups at national preserves in Alaska.
Updated at 7:11 p.m.