Groups seek wolf hunt injunction for MT, ID
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
August 24, 2009
Environmental groups, represented by the Montana-based Earthjustice legal advocacy group, filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to block fall wolf hunting seasons proposed by Montana and Idaho.
The brief filed in the Montana federal court noted: "Plaintiffs Defenders of Wildlife et al. seek a preliminary injunction to reinstate Endangered Species Act ("ESA") protections for gray wolves to prevent the intentional and unnecessary killing of 330 wolves that is scheduled to begin this fall. Idaho has authorized a wolf hunt beginning September 1, 2009; Montana’s wolf hunt commences September 15. Idaho has authorized the killing of 255 wolves—30 percent of the state’s most recently reported wolf population estimate—via hunting and will issue an unlimited number of hunting tags to try to ensure that quota is filled. The hunt threatens to virtually eliminate wolves from key connecting corridors between isolated subpopulations. This extraordinarily high level of killing will fracture the northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf 'metapopulation,' greatly hindering wolf dispersal and, with it, the possibility of real wolf recovery. Indeed, the best available science demonstrates that the region’s wolf population, while rebounding, has not yet achieved recovery. Reducing the population by such a significant amount will ensure that such recovery remains elusive."
Here's a press release issued by Earhjustice on Thursday, August 20, 2009:
"Conservation groups today asked a federal district court to block fall wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. The request came in an ongoing lawsuit seeking to restore federal Endangered Species Act protections to wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains until wolf numbers are stronger, the states develop an adequate legal safety net, and connectivity between recovery areas is assured.
"Idaho has authorized the intentional killing of 255 wolves in a wolf hunt, scheduled to begin September 1. The authorized wolf killing via hunting in Idaho represents 30 percent of the last reported Idaho wolf population estimate, which was 846 wolves at the end of December 2008. Montana has authorized the intentional killing of 75 wolves in a wolf hunt, scheduled to begin September 15. Montana has authorized the killing of 15 percent of its last official wolf population estimate, which was 497 wolves at the end of December 2008. There were only 39 breeding pairs in Idaho last year, and just 34 in Montana.
"The wolf hunting is in addition to wolf killing due to livestock conflicts, defense-of-property wolf killing, and natural mortality. The hunting would occur throughout the states, including in core wilderness regions where wolves have virtually no conflicts with human activities. Idaho and Montana currently have no cap on wolf killing. For example, under Idaho law, there is no limit on wolf killing in defense of livestock. The combined loss of all these wolves threatens the recovery of the still-vulnerable regional wolf population in the northern Rockies.
"Under the challenged U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wolf delisting rule, Idaho and Montana are free to reduce the wolf population down to 150 per state -- a potential loss of roughly two-thirds of the region's wolves.
"The scheduled wolf hunts would cripple the regional wolf population by isolating wolves into disconnected subgroups incapable of genetic or ecological sustainability. The wolf hunts would also allow the killing of the breeding "alpha" male and female wolves, thereby disrupting the social group, leaving pups more vulnerable.
"No other endangered species has ever been delisted at such a low population level and then immediately hunted to even lower unsustainable levels.
"The decision to hunt wolves comes as Yellowstone National Park wolves declined by 27 percent last year -- one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The northern Rockies wolf population also has not achieved a level of connectivity between the greater Yellowstone, central Idaho, and northwest Montana areas that is essential to wolves' long-term survival.
"Wolves are still under federal protection in Wyoming because a federal court previously ruled that Wyoming's hostile wolf management scheme leaves wolves in "serious jeopardy." The Fish and Wildlife Service in the recent past held that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the Endangered Species Act, but the federal government flip-flopped on its earlier position and this year took wolves in Idaho and Montana off the endangered species list while leaving those in Wyoming on the list.In addition to Wyoming, the states of Idaho and Montana have refused to make enforceable commitments to maintain viable wolf populations within their borders."
Earthjustice represents Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, 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.