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FoA to Defend Snowy Owl in Court in August

March 14, 2014 | Wildlife Law Program

On Friday, March 14, lawyers for Friends of Animals FoA made their first appearance in Federal Court on behalf of snowy owls and hundreds of other bird species that are wrongfully and illegally being shot by wildlife agencies at and near John. F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. 

Following the shooting of snowy owls at JFK back in December, which was widely covered in the media, FoA filed a lawsuit in January against the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act MBTA.

While the government's attorney, Margaret Kolbe, was hoping to get the action dismissed altogether on Friday, U.S. District Court Judge John Gleeson instead set a deadline of April 25 for the government to produce records of how and why it came to its decision to kill snowy owls at JFK and set Aug. 1 as the hearing date for final motions.

The killing of the snowy owls was carried out under the Gull Hazard/Bird Hazard Reduction Program, authorized by the defendants in this case, to protect aircraft departing and arriving at JFK from alleged bird strikes.  Since 1994, this program has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of birds at and near JFK.

FoA attorneys quickly determined that the defendants have never complied with federal requirements to fully disclose the scope of their proposed bird reduction plan, to analyze the impacts of the program on wildlife and to explain whether impacts to wildlife—including the targeted birds—could be reduced. 

FoA was represented by Jennifer Barnes, a staff attorney in FoA's Colorado-based Wildlife Law Program.

In response to the backlash from the snowy owl shootings, New York Port Authority quickly said it would adopt a no kill policy and instead catch and release the birds like the program in place at Logan International Airport in Boston.  This lawsuit seeks to make sure the agencies, and the federal government, stick to that policy.


March 14th article from The New York Daily News about FoA's lawsuit: "Killing of snowy owls at Kennedy Airport described as 'take' in court" 


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