Judge Donald Molloy's Thursday ruling to put the Northern Rockies gray wolf back on the Endangered Species List has generated an outpouring of comment from all corners of the debate. We'll keep a running list here as individuals, organizations and agencies continue to root for/rail against the decision.
• (UPDATE) Sen. Max Baucus weighed in this afternoon, vowing to introduce legislation to restore state management of the gray wolf population.
“I am extremely disappointed that Montana’s population of gray wolves will return to the Endangered Species List," Baucus said in his release. "Montana has long had an excellent wolf management plan in place and it shouldn’t be set aside because Wyoming’s plan continues to come up short. This dispute has gone on long enough and I’m looking at all options to deal with it. When Congress returns next month, I plan to introduce legislation that puts wolves under Montana’s management.”
• Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) announced this morning that the agency intends to appeal Molloy's ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court. According to Dave Risley, administrator for FWP's Fish and Wildlife Division, there's no definitive word on what FWP will appeal, and he admits Molloy left little room for such action.
“Obviously our lawyer’s taking a look at the decision to see what our options are, but I think our options are very limited," Risley says. "Basically, for the time being, we feel it takes the hunting season off the table.”
Risley adds such a decision will likely take years to formulate.
Molloy's decision impacts more than just this fall's wolf hunt for FWP. Relisting the wolves takes authorization for all wolf kills—necessary or otherwise—out of the state's hands for Montana's endangered portion of the population (geographically, Risley says this applies north of Interstate 90).
“Prior to the decision, when we had state control, if a landowner had damage we worked cooperatively with the wildlife services and we would authorize them to take animals immediately," Risley says. "Now, we don’t have the authority to authorize wildlife services to take a wolf. That authority has to come from the Fish and Wildlife Service.
“As a biologist, what upsets me more about the case than anything else is that we’re making wildlife management decisions in the courtroom based on legal technicalities rather than biological factors," Risley adds. "I understand that politics and legal nuances come into play quite a bit, but this is, in my opinion, pretty drastic.”
• The Sierra Club, one of the plaintiffs in the case, celebrates yesterday's news. Associate Regional Representative Bob Clark issued the following statement today:
"We are thrilled that the integrity of the Endangered Species Act has been protected and that the court has ruled in favor of science. Now, this ruling gives us a chance at legitimate recovery if all sides can come together."
The statement goes on to address the future potential for delisting, which the Sierra Club doesn't entirely rule out.
"Once true recovery for wolves in the northern Rockies has been achieved; we look forward to adopting a legally defensible delisting proposal. True recovery will be measured by; a scientifically justified population target being consistently met, responsible state wolf management plans that bring all sides together and are based on the best available science, and providing for sufficient biological connectivity to ensure genetic diversity."
As for the potential for an appeal from FWP, Clark says he understands their legal option to do so. However, he has no clue at present just how the agency will go about it.
“I don’t think they’re going to be able to go after the issue in regards to the state managed hunts because of the main ruling, which is that the delisting was illegal and that now the wolves are back on the Endangered Species List," Clark says. "Hunting them would be contrary to the Endangered Species Act, so there’s really no room there.”
• The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, staunch supporters of the delisting, have taken their argument against Molloy's decision one step further by calling for congressional action in revamping the Endangered Species Act. The Foundation's release quoted President and CEO David Allen:
"When federal statutes and judges actually endorse the annihilation of big game herds, livestock, rural and sporting lifestyles—and possibly even compromise human safety—then clearly the Endangered Species Act as currently written has major flaws. We have already begun contacting the Congressional delegations of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming to ask for an immediate review of this travesty—and reform of the legislation that enabled it."
• The relisting of gray wolves in Montana and Idaho prompted the Montana Wool Growers Association to speak out this morning. The group pointed to an August 2009 incident in which wolves killed 150 sheep on a single Montana ranch as evidence of the extreme economic detriment the animals can cause. Their argument proved a little more broad, focusing less on Molloy's ruling and more on the issue of predator management in general.
"Wildlife depredations account also for some 15% of the total cost of sheep production—second only to feed and pasture costs. And as much as the wolf is seen as a particular menace, facts show that coyotes are actually responsible for over 60% of total predator kills on sheep, followed by domestic dogs at 13% and mountain lions and cougars at 6%. While these statistics are apt to change with the ever increasing numbers of wolves, the priority for Montana sheep producers remains—for now—supporting programs and agencies that seek to control every kind of predator, not just wolves."
• Private outrage began filtering in well before any of us had our morning coffee. Tony Bridges with the Missoula-based anti-wolf blog Lobo Watch had the following to say:
"If Molloy, or any of these environmental organizations, think for a second that the decision of someone who is totally out of touch with modern wildlife management will keep hunters from killing wolves this fall and winter, they need to think again. In fact, the anger provoked by this ego-driven judge will more than likely result in the death of far more wolves than the quotas established by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Any wolf that now steps out in front of any hunter this fall is very likely to be shot...and left to rot."
• And from the political corner, Sen. Jon Tester, sponsor of the 2009 "Wolf Kill Bill" that sought funding for Montana ranchers who lost livestock to wolves:
“This decision misses the mark. I’ve always supported Montana’s common-sense wolf management plan—and its wolf hunt—because it’s a home-grown solution to an issue important to a whole lot of Montanans. If Montana is going to be home to wolves, they’ve got to be managed in a way that works for the folks who live and work here. This decision highlights the importance of bringing all parties together to find a regional solution.”
It's a lot of comment to swallow, we know. But if we thought this debate was hot before, just wait a few more days. And keep checking back in for more for-and-against comment.