12 November 2010

Friends of Animals and CARE File Appeal in Valley Forge Deer Kill Case

Philadelphia — Responding to a federal district court’s decision to defer to officials’ plans to kill Valley Forge National Historical Park’s deer, Friends of Animals and Chester County’s animal-advocacy group CARE today filed an appeal of that decision and also sought an injunction to prevent any further shooting of the deer at Valley Forge while the appeal is pending in the Court of Appeals, requesting an Expedited Ruling.

The district court applied the wrong standard of review when considering the groups’ challenge to the Park Service’s Deer Management Plan for Valley Forge, the Motion asserts.

In entirely deferring to the agency’s discretion under the Administrative Procedure Act (under the APA, a court may only set aside an agency decision if it is “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law”), the federal district court failed to adhere to the more stringent legal standards required by the National Environmental Policy Act, under which the court’s “inquiry into the facts must be searching and careful.”

The plaintiffs’ Motion states: “This Court applied the wrong standard of review when it upheld the Park Service’s Plan by wholly deferring to the Park Service’s discretion to cherry-pick favorable alternatives.”

Lee Hall, legal VP of Friends of Animals, stated: “On November 7th, members and supporters of Friends of Animals and CARE demonstrated at Valley Forge and engaged numerous visitors. Most were shocked at the Park’s plans. Some were extremely dismayed and disgusted, thinking that killing might already have started without the press being told or allowed to cover the scene.”

As reported in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Friends of Animals and CARE halted the Park’s deer-control plan last winter. The plaintiffs sued in federal court at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to set aside the deer-control plan for good.

But on Wednesday October 27, 2010, Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled to approve the use of sharpshooters to kill some 85% of the white-tailed deer who live at Valley Forge National Historical Park over the next four years.

The Park is an oasis for the deer in the midst of major roadways and commercial development. It comprises more than five square miles of land, partially wooded and partially built over with monuments, roads, shops and other buildings. Fewer than 200 deer would be allowed to live, out of a population currently reported as numbering more than a thousand. The survivors would, Park officials say, be subjected to pharmaceutical birth control.

“We are asking the Court to put the brakes on the Park Service’s plans to shoot the deer at Valley Forge while this case plays itself out on appeal,” said Kevin Lynch of the University of Denver’s Environmental Law Clinic.

“We see a genuine, ecologically sane alternative that the Park Service rejected in a conclusory and perfunctory manner: respect for the coyotes as well as the deer who’ve long made the Park their home.”

The litigants moved for an injunction to hold off the killing while an appeal is pending to the Third Circuit.

They note also that one of their members was deprived for the first time in three years of a weekly hike with the Appalachian Mountain Club because of the Park Service’s recent preparation for the deer shoot.