550 S.E.2d 287 (S.C. 2001), 25326, Sea Pines Ass'n for Protection of Wildlife, Inc. v. South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources

Docket Nº:25326.
Citation:550 S.E.2d 287, 345 S.C. 594
Party Name:345 S.C. 594 SEA PINES ASSOCIATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF WILDLIFE, INC., Advocates Working for Animals and Respect for the Environment a/k/a AWARE, The Fund for Animals, Inc., Animal Protection Institute, and the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Appellants, v. SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND COMMUNITY SERV
Case Date:July 23, 2001
Court:Supreme Court of South Carolina
 
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550 S.E.2d 287 (S.C. 2001)

345 S.C. 594

SEA PINES ASSOCIATION FOR THE PROTECTION OF WILDLIFE, INC., Advocates Working for Animals and Respect for the Environment a/k/a AWARE, The Fund for Animals, Inc., Animal Protection Institute, and the Humane Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Appellants,

v.

SOUTH CAROLINA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES ASSOCIATES, INC., Respondents.

No. 25326.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

July 23, 2001.

Heard June 8, 2000.

Rehearing Denied Aug. 22, 2001.[345 S.C. 595]

Page 288

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 289

[345 S.C. 596] Harold W. Jacobs and J. Michelle Childs, both of Nexsen Pruet Jacobs & Pollard, LLP, of Columbia, for appellants.

Ester Haymond and James A. Quinn, of Columbia, for respondent South Carolina Department of Natural Resources; Stephen A. Spitz, of Columbia, and Roberts Vaux and Gray B. Taylor, of Vaux & Marscher, P.A., of Bluffton, all for respondent Community Services Associates, Inc.

TOAL, Chief Justice:

Sea Pines Association for the Protection of Wildlife, Inc., Advocates Working for Animals and Respect for the Environment ("AWARE"), the Fund for Animals, Inc., Animal Protection Institute, and the Humane Society for the Prevention of [345 S.C. 597]Cruelty to Animals ("Appellants") challenge the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources' ("Department") issuance of permits to lethally eliminate a substantial number of white-tailed deer in the Sea Pines Public Service District ("Sea Pines") on Hilton Head Island.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Sea Pines is a 5,280 acre private, suburban community located on the southern portion of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The South Carolina General Assembly established Sea Pines as one of eleven wildlife sanctuaries designated under S.C.Code Ann. § 50-11-880(1) (Supp.2000). Sea Pines provides habitat for numerous species of wildlife, including the white-tailed deer.

Many Sea Pines residents enjoy observing, interacting, and photographing the deer and other wildlife in the sanctuary. However, over the past several years, many residents and homeowners have become concerned with the growing number of deer. Residents of Sea Pines have complained about landscape damage, increased number of automobile collisions 1, and more frequent confrontations between deer and humans. In response, Community Service Associates, Inc. ("CSA") 2 embarked on a program designed to study the deer population. CSA hired both Todd Ballentine, a local naturalist, and also Dr. Robert Warren, a professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Georgia School of Forest Resources, to conduct a study of the deer population problem.

Dr. Warren conducted an in-depth scientific analysis of the deer herd in Sea Pines. In conjunction with Dr. Warren's studies, six public meetings were held, the residents were surveyed, and two Master's theses were written. At the conclusion of his research, Dr. Warren issued a comprehensive [345 S.C. 598] report and a Project Proposal on May 14, 1998, which served as a basis for the issuance of the permits in this case. Pursuant to the Project Proposal, a scientific study would commence in July 1998, and continue into the year 2000. At the conclusion of the study, lethal techniques would be used to remove 100 to 200 deer, or approximately fifty percent of the herd, in the southern portion of Sea Pines where the concentration of deer was the greatest.

Appellants oppose the lethal reduction of the population of white-tailed deer. The lead Appellant, Sea Pines Association for the Protection of Wildlife, Inc. ("SPAPW"), an organization of Sea Pines residents or property owners, was formed for the specific purpose of promoting the use of non-lethal means of resolving conflicts between humans and wildlife. On August 25, 1998, Appellants filed a Summons and Complaint seeking: (1) a temporary retraining order to restrain the Department from issuing any further permits for the taking or killing of deer within Sea Pines and to restrain CSA and the University of Georgia from acting on any existing

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permits; (2) a temporary injunction and permanent injunction against the issuance of permits by the Department to CSA without meeting the requirements of section 50-11-880; and (3) a declaratory judgment determining whether the Department complied with the requisite statutes, rules, and regulations relative to the issuance of permits in a wildlife sanctuary, and whether the Department violated the constitutional rights of the residents of Sea Pines by failing to afford them due process.

On September 10, 1998, the trial court denied Appellant's Motion for a Temporary Injunction. Appellants then filed a Petition for a Writ of Supersedeas with the South Carolina Court of Appeals. In a panel hearing on September 23, 1998, the Court of Appeals granted Appellant's petition, which reinstated the temporary restraining order until the trial of the case. On November 20, 1998, the Court of Appeals issued an order holding the appeal in abeyance pending the outcome of a trial on the merits of the case.

A non-jury trial was held from March 15, 1999 to March 17, 1999, where the trial judge vacated the temporary injunction and dismissed the action with prejudice, holding: (1) Appellants lacked standing to pursue the matters alleged in the [345 S.C. 599] Complaint; (2) there are no statutory or constitutional due process requirements for notice or opportunity to be heard concerning the issuance of the permits; and (3) the actions of the Department in the issuance of these permits has been in total compliance with the statutory laws of this State.

On March 10, 1999, the Department issued a permit to CSA and the University of Georgia to collect up to ten male white-tailed deer for a herd health check. On July 13, 1999, the...

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