A new court case has been thrown into doubt as it emerges that a lawyer for the US Fish and Wildlife Service is suing the agency over a new environmental protection law.
The lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status on behalf of conservationists and landowners, says the law “was never intended to cover species” and could “prevent the government from adequately regulating and protecting these animals and their habitat”.
The Fish and Game Service has previously defended the law as being the best it has ever come up with.
The suit says the agency is now using the law to “exploit” endangered wildlife and to “threaten” landowners’ property rights and property rights to “excessively protect” wildlife.
“They want to use this legislation to take away your property rights, to take you away from your property, to make it impossible to protect the species, to limit the use of the habitat,” the suit says.
Conservationists say the new law could prevent endangered species from surviving.
The Fish & Wildlife Service, which regulates wildlife in the US, is also being sued by environmentalists over the bill.
It says the new bill is intended to protect wild animals by providing them with protections from hunters and other predators, including “feral cats and other wildlife that cannot be managed with traditional techniques”.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Thursday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the law was meant to protect species and was “part of our plan to get more wildlife into the wild”.
The law, he said, was not intended to be an “all-or-nothing approach”.
It will “not make a difference to wildlife in any way whatsoever”, Zinke added.
But the conservation group Conservation Law Center (CLC) said it is the first time it has seen a lawsuit that specifically seeks class-based status.
The group is seeking to have the law declared unconstitutional and said it could cost taxpayers $1 billion to defend the lawsuit.
It also said the new legislation will make it harder for the government to prosecute wildlife violations.
The US Fish & Game Service was asked for comment on the lawsuit on Thursday afternoon.
The agency did not respond to an email seeking comment.
It has previously denied using its law to kill wild animals and said the only way to control wildlife is to “hunt and kill”.
But the agency has also defended the legislation.
Zinke’s administration has said the Fish and Grazing Act will help fight illegal wildlife trade and the law is designed to protect endangered species.
The law allows hunters to kill endangered animals with a firearm.
It was passed in 1996 and has expanded wildlife protections to include mammals and reptiles, including the Great Horned Owl.
The act also prohibits hunting of wild animals without a permit.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund, which represents conservationists, said the lawsuit was a “new low” for the Fish & Grazin’ Act.
“We are pleased that the US government is finally getting serious about addressing the problem of illegal wildlife trafficking,” the group said in a statement.
“Instead of being forced to defend these species, our lawsuit is asking the court to declare unconstitutional the Fish-Grazing act that allows hunters, trappers, and illegal hunters to hunt, kill, and eat wild animals.”