‘Frustrated, Angry, Disappointed’ At Judge’s Wolf Ruling

Montana and Idaho wildlife officials decried the decision of a judge in Missoula to reinstate Federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies yesterday that also nixes their plans to hold a second season of fall hunts.

“We believe we made arguments to the judge that he could have relied on to uphold the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist the wolf,” said Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, in a press release. “We will carefully examine the ruling to determine what options remain open to Montana’s wildlife managers.”

“This is a major setback for responsible wildlife management in Idaho. We have demonstrated our ability to conduct a hunting season in an orderly fashion,” added Idaho Fish and Game Commission Chairman Dr. Wayne Wright in another press statement. “It’s a shame when legal twists can trump wildlife management. This is not how the Endangered Species Act should work.”

The ruling even drew comment from the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland:

“For more than 15 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state wildlife agencies, tribes, conservation organizations, ranchers and other landowners have worked hard to recover gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Our collective efforts have brought this population to the point where it no longer requires Endangered Species Act protection,” said Strickland in a release.

Wolves were delisted in Montana and Idaho but not Wyoming in April 2009 by the Obama Administration.

However, U.S. District Court Judge Donald W. Molloy ruled in favor of wolf-proponents that the species had to be managed as a whole, not by the two states and Federal government in Wyoming.

“The Endangered Species Act does not allow the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list only part of a ‘species’ as endangered, or to protect a listed distinct population segment only in part as the Final Rule here does,” Molloy writes in a 50-page PDF containing his ruling, which can be found at National Parks Traveler.

“The northern Rocky Mountain DPS must be listed, or delisted, as a distinct population and protected accordingly,” he writes near the end of the document.

The ruling also puts wolves in the eastern portions of Washington and Oregon back under ESA protections.

“We’re frustrated; we’re angry; we’re disappointed,” Idaho Fish and Game Deputy Director Jim Unsworth said. “We’ve played by the rules, but his decision allows procedural technicalities to overcome sound science and common sense.”

Idaho’s sitting Republican governor and his Democratic challenger both said Idaho should manage its wolves; the state’s entire U.S. Congressional delegation said: “We look for a more reasonable decision from a higher court,” according to the Associated Press.  FWP has asked the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to immediately appeal to the 9th Circuit Court in San Francisco.

“If we understand the ruling correctly, Judge Molloy is telling the federal government that because Wyoming still doesn’t have adequate regulatory mechanisms to manage wolves, you can’t delist the wolf in Montana and Idaho,” FWP’s Maurier said. “We simply can’t manage wildlife successfully in that environment. We must have the ability to manage wildlife, to do our job, to seek a balance among predator and prey. As a practical matter, as wildlife managers, we need the authority to respond to the challenges wolves present every day.”

His agency calls wolf recovery “one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record,” and notes that minimum Federal recovery goals of 30 breeding packs and 300 individuals for three consecutive years in the  Northern Rockies were met in 2002.

U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE, 2009

The US Fish & Wildlife Service’s 1987 recovery plan called for 10 pairs and 100 wolves in Northwest Montana, central Idaho and the Yellowstone region, but 30 pairs and 300 wolves were considered more likely to foster recovery in the agency’s 1994 EIS for reintroduction.

But according to AP, the National Resources Defense Council, a plaintiff in the case, says “a true recovery number would be at least 2,000 wolves in the region.”

“We’re real close to recovery. We’ve got 1,700 wolves in the Rockies. But we’re not there,” AP quotes NRDC’s Matt Skoglund as saying. “We want to see a plan in place that ensures genetic connectivity among the subpopulations and ultimately guarantees a sustainable wolf population.”

“This decision is a significant victory for wolves, for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, and for all Americans who care deeply about conservation,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, according to the Idaho Statesman, adding, “The court’s ruling makes it clear that decisions under the Endangered Species Act should be based on science, not politics.”

Other plaintiffs in the case included Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.

At Hunting-Washington, the news was met with outrage; one poster wrote, “For those who were completely against (shoot, shovel and shut up) regarding wolves, do you still feel the same way?”

Another poster stood up for the Cowboy State’s intransigence in crafting a Federally approvable wolf plan: “We constantly talk about standing up for what is right in this country. Take a stand. THAT is exactly what Wyoming did and I for one applaud them and stand by them.  They were given a chit sandwich and refused to eat it, that makes them wrong??”

Since releases into Central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990s, wolves have turned up in Colorado and Oregon; others have filtered in from Canada, where, according to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, some 75,000 exist.

Several Montana and Idaho elk herds have been hit very hard by wolf predation, but the predator’s numbers also appear to be leveling off.

IDFG has now stopped selling wolf tags for this fall’s hunt; last season, 188 were shot by hunters in Idaho, 72 in Montana. Both states had planned on increasing wolf harvest this season.

Meanwhile, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation called on the U.S. Congress to immediately review how ESA acts.

The Missoula-based organization said the ruling “opened a door for perhaps the greatest wildlife management disaster in America since the wanton destruction of bison herds over a century ago.”

“When federal statutes and judges actually endorse the annihilation of big game herds, livestock, rural and sporting lifestyles–and possibly even compromise human safety–then clearly the Endangered Species Act as currently written has major flaws,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO in a press release. “We have already begun contacting the Congressional delegations of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to ask for an immediate review of this travesty–and reform of the legislation that enabled it.”

RMEF also pressed their argument that “animal rights groups who continue to litigate over wolves are ‘gaming the system for their own financial benefit,’ (Allen) added, saying, ‘There are no elk in Iowa, but we are not suing folks to reintroduce them. This is simply a financial scam for the animal rights groups, and it’s all being paid for by the American taxpayer.'”

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3 Responses to “‘Frustrated, Angry, Disappointed’ At Judge’s Wolf Ruling”

  1. Writer Tackles Way Forward On Wolves « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] Writer Tackles Way Forward On Wolves By Andy Walgamott An interesting read over at New West on why the state of Wyoming is actually a wolf lover’s best friend, why wolf proponents should back off now unless they wish to see Congress gut ESA, how wolf numbers will continue to be kept in check by government shooters, and whispers of a settlement meeting between Northern Rockies game and fish agencies and plaintiffs that was all set to go — until U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s ruling last week. […]

  2. inthefurwest Says:

    if the usfw is going to appeal malloys decision then they had best get on the ball, now with malloys decision put forth for all to see wyoming is essentially back in the drivers seat as far as actually getting their management plan implemented. Wyomings lawsuit that is currently in front of judge brown in cheyenne has survived peer review and meets all the esa requirements , but still allows for the dual status that malloy and the defenders are so afraid of, and if judge browns ruling goes as expected then their is no reason all three states cannot delist since the wolf numbers have been met as far back as 2002. Ed bangs who is the wolf recovery coordinator with the dept. of the interior has writen a paper back in april of this year saying that wolf genetic conectivity is no longer an issue and wolf populations are saturating the area. All this helps wyoming in their case, now if judge brown will only put on his robe and go to work the problem will be solved, 300 wolves and 30 breeding pairs , no more no less.

  3. Western Fall Elk Forecast « Northwest Sportsman Says:

    […] urgent need to control wolf populations is a localized wildlife management crisis now compounded by a recent court decision to return wolves to full federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. RMEF has asked […]

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