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Humane Society pays $15.75 million to settle RICO lawsuit

By JIM MATTHEWS The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) settled a lawsuit with Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, to the tune of $15.75 million this past week. Ending nearly 14 years of litigation, Feld has collected more than $25 million from HSUS and its affiliated groups. HSUS and animal rights groups the Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free USA (formerly the Animal Protection Institute), the Wildlife Advocacy Project, the law firm of Meyer, Glitzenstein & Crystal, and several current and former attorneys of that firm, paid the settlement for their involvement in the case brought under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that the U.S. District Court ruled was "frivolous," "vexatious," and "groundless and unreasonable from its inception." The case settlement this past week also covers the related Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) case that Feld Entertainment filed against the groups after discovering they had paid a plaintiff -- the key witness -- for his participation in the original lawsuit and then attempted to conceal those payments. In December 2012, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a former co-defendant in the case, settled its share of the lawsuits by paying Feld Entertainment $9.3 million. When combined with the total paid this past week, the total recovered by Feld Entertainment to more than $25 million. According to Feld, this case marks the first time in U.S. history where a defendant in an Endangered Species Act case was found entitled to recover attorneys' fees against the plaintiffs.

BIG GAME APPLICATIONS DUE JUNE 2: Hunters have until June 2 to apply for the limited big game hunting tags issued annually in a Department of Fish and Wildlife drawing. Applications for pronghorn antelope, three species of elk, bighorn sheep, and premium deer tags are done electronically through the DFW’s web site, through any license agent, or by telephone at 800-565-1458. Drawing results are available in mid-June. Tag numbers will remain about the same as 2013 for most species of big game, with the one exception being bighorn sheep. Because of the extensive die-off of animals in the Old Dad Mountain complex in the Mojave Preserve due to disease contracted from a domestic animal, tag numbers have dropped from 21 to 13 this year.

HIGH DESERT QUAIL FOREVER NEEDS VOLUNTEERS: The High Desert Chapter of Quail Forever is looking for new members/volunteers to help do gamebird spring surveys, guzzler repairs and surveys, and to fill wildlife drinkers throughout the High Desert region. The club has a short list of eight projects its membership would like before the end of May. Volunteers should attend the club’s next regular meeting beginning 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (May 20) at the Apple Valley Gun Club, 16699 Stoddard Wells Road, Victorville. The immediate projects include six fairly minor fixes to gamebird guzzlers in the Apple Valley to Barstow region so they can hold water through the critical late spring and summer period. There is also a need for a small group to find, get GPS coordinates, and estimate repairs on three guzzlers in the Shadow Mountains and an additional four guzzlers in the Cajon Pass region. For volunteers who can’t make the Tuesday meeting but would like to participate, contact habitat chairman Neil Ringlee at 760-617-9025 for more information.

FRIENDS OF NRA BANQUETS: The Friends of the National Rifle Association has chapters all over the country and they host annual fundraising events with the goal of raising money for local shooting and hunting education programs. Here’s a brief list of Southern California FNRA events coming up: May 31, 2014: The North County (San Diego County) Chapter will have its fundraiser beginning 5 p.m. at the Elk’s Lodge in Vista. Contact Mike Davis at 714-368-0451 or June 7, 2014: The Santa Barbara Chapter will have its fundraiser beginning 5 p.m. at the Elk’s Lodge in Santa Barbara. Contact John McCormack at 805-692-4980 or June 7, 2014: The Compton Hunting and Fish Club Chapter will have its fundraiser beginning 3 p.m. at the club’s club house in Compton. Contact Frank McEnulty at 310-508-9398 or June 12, 2014: The Taft Chapter will have its fundraiser beginning 5 p.m. at OT’s Cook House in Taft. Contact Travis Milner at 661-203-5880 or June 14, 2014: The Big Bear Chapter will have its fundraiser beginning 6 p.m. at the Big Bear Lake Convention Center. Contact Mike Davis at 714-368-0451 or END

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