Wolf Coalition makes argument
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
July 5, 2007
The Wyoming Wolf Coalition has filed its opening brief in the federal lawsuit over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rejection of the Wyoming wolf plan last year. The coalition consists of associations, private entities and political subdivisions of the state, ranging from livestock groups and sportsmen’s organizations, and from outfitters and guides to county commissions and conservation districts.
The wolf coalition asserts in its brief, “By rejecting Wyoming’s petition to delist, by rejecting the Wyoming plan, and by refusing to issue a supplemental environmental impact statement, [FWS] damaged the interests of the Wolf Coalition members and have violated the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.”
The brief argues: “Although the FWS had repeatedly assured Wyoming that it would evaluate the Wyoming plan dual classification (trophy game animal and predator) based upon sound science, it rejected the only science that it had in favor of public perception, political considerations and fear of litigation – none of which are legally valid under the ESA for rejecting the Wyoming plan.”
The brief pointed out that although the ESA requires FWS to make all listing and delisting decisions based solely upon the best scientific and commercial data available. In this case the only scientific and commercial data available were the independent expert peer reviews, 10 of 11 of whom concluded that the Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho Plans were adequate to protect the gray wolf population at or above recovery levels, the brief noted.
The wolf coalition argues that the FWS rejection of the Wyoming wolf plan “was arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and in violation of the ESA.”
“They have no authority to ignore the clear language of the ESA in order to elevate political and public relations considerations over sound scientific and biological analysis,” the brief stated.
The coalition argued that the administrative record before the federal court confirms that the Wyoming plan should have been approved and its rejection by FWS constitutes “agency action unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed.”
The brief argues that the gray wolf population far exceeds the numbers contemplated in the 1994 environmental impact statement on the wolf reintroduction program. Requiring Wyoming to designate the gray wolf as a trophy game animal throughout the state substantially expands the recovery area identified and evaluated in the EIS, according to the wolf coalition. Yet FWS has refused to prepare a supplemental EIS to evaluate the impacts of a larger-than-expected wolf population and a larger-than-previously-demanded recovery area. Thus, FWS’s failure to prepare an SEIS to address these impacts is arbitrary and capricious, contrary to NEPA, and not in accordance with law, the brief argued.