Wolf protections reinstated
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
August 8, 2010
A federal judge in Montana has reinstated federal protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. The summary judgment decision did not address the various arguments about wolf numbers, genetics and linkages, but instead addressed only the narrow issue of whether it was legal for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist wolves in two of the three states that encompass the Distinct Population Segment. The ruling stated such action was not in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.
The complete 50-page decision is attached below. Continue reading to see how officials in Montana and Idaho responded to the ruling.
Here is the Idaho Fish and Game Department's response to the ruling: "We are very disappointed by District Judge Donald Molloy's ruling, returning gray wolves to endangered species protection.
"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," Idaho Fish and Game Commission Chairman Dr. Wayne Wright. "It's a shame when legal twists can trump wildlife management. This is not how the Endangered Species Act should work."
We don't know yet what this means for the upcoming wolf season. But for the time being we have suspended wolf tag sales until we've had a chance to further review the decision.
"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."
Wolves south of Interstate 90 have reverted to management under a section of the Endangered Species Act known as the 10(j) rule, allowing some flexibility to respond to livestock depredation and impacts on big game. The rule also allows individuals on private or public land to kill a wolf that is in the act of attacking their stock animals or dogs. Wolf north of Interstate 90 in Idaho are fully protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Idaho still must follow the rule of law, and we will look at all legal options to see what's the best way out of this mess. Fish and Game still will work to resolve conflicts between wolves and other game animals, including proposals to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for wolf control actions to protect dwindling game herds and reduce livestock predation."
Here's Montana's response to the court ruling:
"Montana wildlife officials decried today’s federal court decision that placed the recovered Rocky Mountain gray wolf back on to the federal list of threatened and endangered species.
"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. "We will carefully examine the ruling to determine what options remain open to Montana’s wildlife managers."
While today’s decision by Federal District Judge Donald W. Molloy in Missoula takes away state management of the wolf, the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission officially asked FWP to immediately appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court and to aggressively seek management options with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
"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." 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."
Today’s federal court decision reinstates Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, with federal law guiding Montana's wolf management options. With today’s ruling, a general wolf hunting season in Montana is prohibited.
Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains were removed from federal protection in March 2009, a decision that was almost immediately challenged by a coalition of 13 groups seeking to put wolves back on the endangered species list.
The recovery of the wolf in the northern Rockies is one of the fastest endangered species comebacks on record. In the mid 1990s, to hasten the overall pace of wolf recovery in the Northern Rockies, more than 60 wolves were released into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.
The minimum recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs—successfully reproducing wolf packs —and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years. This goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has increased every year since.
The wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area, which comprises parts of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, was estimated to be at least 1,706, with 242 packs, and 115 breeding pairs at the end of last year. About 525 wolves were estimated to inhabit Montana, in 100 packs and 34 breeding pairs."