Wyoming: FWS decision not based on biology
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
November 13, 2009
State of Wyoming and Park County officials came out with their guns blazing in their joint opening brief challenging the federal decision not to delist wolves in Wyoming. The opening brief was filed in the U.S. Federal District Court in Cheyenne earlier this week.
The brief asserts that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed political and public relations considerations, and speculative concerns about potential future lawsuits, to influence its decision.
The FWS decision went against the opinions of wolf biologists that Wyoming’s dual-status classification for wolves would not threaten the viability of the wolf population. Wyoming’s brief noted that in 2008, FWS approved Wyoming’s plan for dual-status wolf management (in which wolves would be classified as trophy game in northwestern Wyoming, but as predators in all other areas of the state), but a few months later, a federal judge in Montana issued a preliminary injunction that relisted wolves in the Northern Rockies. In the preliminary injunction order, the judge chastised FWS for not explaining why dual status was deemed satisfactory in 2008, when the agency had rejected it in 2004 and 2006.
"This rebuke from the court left the Service with only one option if it wanted to save the delisting rule – the Service had to admit that it was wrong to demand the statewide trophy game classification in 2004 and 2006," the joint opening brief argued. "Rather than admit this, the Service instead rescinded the delisting rule and eventually revoked its previous approval of the State’s wolf management scheme."
The State/Park County brief points out that FWS once again refuses to delist wolves in Wyoming unless the state adopts a statewide trophy game classification for wolves, instead of dual status.
"The Service does not have (and never has had) any biological reason for demanding that the State adopt a statewide trophy game classification. In making this demand, the Service has chosen pride over its legal obligation to follow the unambiguous requirements in the Endangered Species Act and, in doing so, has left the State with no choice but to seek judicial review in this Court to force the Service to comply with the ESA," the brief stated.
The brief provides a detailed overview of the numerous lawsuits and planning efforts undertaken in the last six years (when wolves exceeded biological recovery goals) with the goal being to remove the species from federal protection and management.
The joint brief argues that FWS has no legitimate biological reason for forcing the State to adopt a statewide trophy game classification for wolves.
The joint brief also argues that one should not ignore the fact that the current federal wolf management scheme and the State’s wolf management scheme have two different purposes under the ESA. The federal management program is intended to promote recovery, while the state’s program is intended to ensure that the state can maintain its share of the population after delisting.
"In managing wolves to maintain recovery levels, the State can implement more aggressive management tools (like hunting) than those allowable under the current federal wolf management scheme," the brief stated. "In enacting the ESA, Congress did not intend for a state to manage a delisted species in exactly the same manner as the Service managed the species while it was listed."
To read the entire joint opening brief, click on the link below.