Wyoming prepares wolf lawsuit
by Wyoming Governor press release
April 5, 2009
The State of Wyoming announced that it will challenge in federal court a decision by the U.S. Department of Interior to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species List in Montana and Idaho, but not in Wyoming.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) today published the final rule delisting the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountain region. As the Service had previously advised, wolves will be delisted only in Montana and Idaho, while the Wyoming wolf population will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as a non-essential experimental population.
"Wyoming believes that the decision is flawed for a number of reasons, and will challenge the decision in court," said Wyoming Attorney General Bruce Salzburg.
"This lawsuit is based on the best science we have," Gov. Dave Freudenthal said. "No matter what the Fish and Wildlife Service does to move the bar, the science has remained constant. We have always believed, and at one time the Fish and Wildlife Service believed, that the best science available supports delisting as outlined in Wyoming state statute and carried forward in the state’s wolf management plan and regulations. From Wyoming’s perspective, the only thing that has changed is yet again the Fish and Wildlife Service. This agency signed off on this very plan and then didn’t have the staying power to defend it, even though the science has always supported delisting in all three states. Clearly the same people who ran the wolf program under the Bush Administration continue to run it under the Obama Administration."
The basis for the FWS decision to keep Wyoming wolves under ESA protection is its conclusion that, even though the criteria for recovery have been met since 2002, Wyoming’s wolf management plan is not sufficient to ensure the continued survival of the state’s share of the recovered wolf population in the foreseeable future.
The principle grounds for Wyoming’s legal challenge are:
1. The state intends to question whether or not the federal government’s objections to Wyoming’s dual classification system is based solely on science, as is required by the ESA, or is instead based on political and public relations concerns.
2. The state will argue that the final rule imposes a heavier wolf management burden on Wyoming, compared to the other two states. The final rule demands that Wyoming manage for 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves in the state. It also requires Wyoming to manage for at least 7 breeding pairs and 70 wolves outside of the national parks. When the number of breeding pairs in the national parks exceeds 8, which is the usual case, Wyoming has a greater requirement than either Montana or Idaho.
Additional details regarding Wyoming’s legal challenge are explained in the notice of intent letter addressed to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, Acting Director of the Service Rowan Gould and Regional Acting Director Steve Guertin.
"Claims under the Endangered Species Act are subject to a 60-day notice requirement, during which time the Service may reverse its decision," Salzburg said. "We will file the notice of intent today, but I do not expect that there will be any changes in the Service’s position, so I’m confident that the challenge will be filed at the end of the 60 day period."