Data source
Date of text
21 Dec 2010
Original language


Type of text
National - higher court
Reference number
No. 08-17406
Court name
United States Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit

The Kofa National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in southwest Arizona contains a desert ecosystem that is home to, among other species, bighorn sheep. After an unexpected decline in the population of the sheep, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service built two water structures (the Yaqui and McPherson tanks) within the wilderness area. Plaintiffs brought suit against the Service. Plaintiffs allege that the Service's actions violated the express prohibition on the development of structures in the Wilderness Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1131-1133, which prohibits the installation of any structure within a wilderness area, “except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this chapter.” The district court granted summary judgment to the Service, and Plaintiffs timely appeal.
The Ninth Circuit first held that the conservation of bighorn sheep is a valid purpose under the Act. The court then held, however, that the FWS had failed to make an adequately reasoned determination that the two structures were the “minimum” means “necessary” to conserve the species. Id. The court noted that the agency’s own planning documents discussed other options that would not conflict with the Act, such as ending hunting within the wilderness area, restricting hiking in areas where interference with the species could occur, addressing predation by mountain lions, and ceasing the agency’s translocation of sheep from this wilderness area to other areas. The court held that the agency had not only failed to make adequate findings addressing the relative merit of these options, but had failed to explain why the water structures themselves were necessary at all.
The Ninth Circuit remanded to the district court for further proceedings, including a determination of the appropriate remedy, given that the two structures had already been installed and the FWS had not briefed the issue of remedy at the appellate level.