Stop the wolf war

Posted Thu, May 12, 2011 at 4:00 AM

On Wednesday, May 4, Department of the Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that gray wolves will be delisted from the Endangered Species Act, removing federal protection and returning management authority to states. This is the latest decision in what has been a decade-long battle surrounding how gray wolves are managed in the Northern Rockies.

In response to the recent de-listing, environmental groups, states, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service are donning their legal armor for what will surely be a vicious and litigious battle. Already, environmental advocacy groups such as Alliance for the Wild Rockies are filing suit to challenge the recent delisting on grounds that it was unconstitutional. These groups warn that a return to state management will reduce numbers to the “brink of extinction” and advocate for re-listing of wolves in the Northern Rockies.

Although environmental advocacy groups hope to challenge the decision to turn wolf management to states, the “best available science” supports the most recent de-listing decision. Studies published as recently as 2010 indicate that within the Northern Rockies, wolves are more genetically connected and occupy more territory since their reintroduction. Since their reintroduction to the Northern Rockies in the 1990s, wolves have successfully colonized vast expanses of wildlands, proving their ability to exist within a matrix of human communities. What’s more, overall numbers are rising: wolf numbers in the Northern Rockies have grown from 100 in 1995 to over 1,700 in 2009. Given this success, it’s important to ask: Why not turn management over to states?

Despite the wolves’ high genetic connectivity, extensive territory, and growing numbers, environmental advocacy groups are unwilling to allow states to assume management authority of gray wolves. This continued “adversarial legalism” compounds existing conflict and starves management agencies of precious dollars needed for planning and management. Ultimately, the future of wolves in the Northern Rockies will depend on how well humans are able to work together toward a solution.

Collaborative solutions can be developed for contentious issues, but it involves a compromise from all involved parties. Wolves aren’t going anywhere in the Northern Rockies. It is time to stop fighting, start talking, and finally work toward a solution.

Wes Swaffar


Comments (3)

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Those gray wolves were not HERE before us. You're not really going to pull the wool over peoples' eyes and say that "any wolf" regardless of its type or natural origin should replace our native timber wolf. We may have hunted them to near extinction, yet this does not mean replacing them with a vicious type that is being killed in its native land because it endangers the people and their food source. You may not enjoy game, but some of us have lived on it and are deeply affected by its steady disappearance over the last decade.

Posted by dizzytiz91 on 06/02/2011 at 10:30 PM…

Aerial gunning of wolves now - leaving brand new pups on the ground to starve, the "hunt" this fall will include trapping, baiting, archery and gut shots. the wolf populations need to be protected from the power zealous hunters trying to feel like real men.

Posted by gline on 05/14/2011 at 8:25 AM

For Immediate Release: Thursday, May 5, 2011

Contact: Michael Garrity, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, 406-459-5936,
Gary Macfarlane, Friends of the Clearwater, 208-882-9755,
Nicole Rosmarino, WildEarth Guardians, 505-699-7404 or

Conservation Groups Challenge Constitutionality of Wolf Delisting Rider
Lawsuit Seeks to Restore Federal Protection to Gray Wolves in Northern Rockies

Missoula, MT—May 5. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians today filed suit in federal court in Montana against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for delisting wolves in Montana, Idaho, and portions of Utah, Washington, and Oregon. The Service published the delisting rule today in compliance with a Congressional budget rider passed on April 15.

“We will not allow the fate of endangered species to be determined by politicians serving special interests. These decisions must be based on science, not politics,” stated Michael Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “Congress has never before delisted species from the Endangered Species list. There is a well-established legal process that applies to every other species. Congress simply should not get into the business of making decisions over which of our nation’s imperiled animals and plants will and will not get protection.”

The groups charge in their complaint that the delisting rider violates the U.S. Constitution, as it specifically repeals a judicial decision. While Congress has the right to make and amend laws, the wolf delisting rider (Section 1713 of the budget law, HR 1473, PL 112-10) does not amend the Endangered Species Act. Rather, it orders the reinstatement of the 2009 wolf delisting rule.

“The rider goes against a bedrock principle of our democracy: checks and balances between branches of government,” stated Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians. “Legislators can’t pick off specific court decisions they don’t like. That’s not fair for the wolf, and it’s certainly not good for our democracy.”

The 2009 rule delisted wolves in the Northern Rockies, with the exception of Wyoming. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and other organizations challenged that rule on the basis that it violated the Endangered Species Act by carving out areas in which wolf protection would be revoked, along state lines. In August 2010, Montana Federal Judge Donald Molloy determined that the 2009 rule was illegal and struck down the 2007 Interior Solicitor’s legal memo on which it was based.

The current Interior Solicitor, Hilary Tompkins, herself revoked the illegal 2007 memo yesterday, but the withdrawal of the illegal memo came too late for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Those wolves are now facing drastic policies at the state level. Montana announced earlier this week that it will likely allow up to 220 of the 566 wolves in the state to be killed this year. In late April, Idaho passed a law declaring a gray wolf “disaster emergency” that gives the governor broad discretion to allow wolf killing statewide. Idaho officials reportedly stated to the Lewiston Morning Tribune earlier this week that aerial gunning of wolves in the Lolo Elk Management Zone will begin “‘with all due haste’” once the delisting rule is issued. The Lolo killing plan targets wolves for killing their native prey, elk, as does a similar plan in the West Fork area of the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana.

“We are doing all we can to hold back the tide of wolf-killing in Montana, Idaho, and elsewhere in the Northern Rockies,” said Gary Macfarlane of Friends of the Clearwater. “This ecologically important species is being unfairly targeted out of ignorance and intolerance and now lacks a federal shield from killing.”

There has been widespread concern over the use of the budget bill to tack on policy riders. Wrote Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber in an April 18, 2011 letter to President Obama, “A six-month budget resolution negotiated through backroom discussions is clearly the wrong vehicle to make permanent changes to significant public policy. For nearly 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has assured decisions about our nation's natural heritage are driven by science, fish and wildlife professionals, and public input. Removing protection for an endangered species by congressional mandate, much less through a budget bill, stands in unprecedented contrast to this history. This action erodes the integrity of the ESA, excludes important public involvement, and usurps the agency structure, established based on a balancing of executive and legislative branch power, that exists to undertake important decisions affecting America's wildlife.”

“We’re back in court for two reasons,” concluded Garrity. “First and foremost, it’s to continue to protect wolves from indiscriminate slaughter. Second, someone has to stand up when the basic tenets of our government are under attack by unscrupulous politicians and that would be the Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians.”


Posted by Matthew Koehler on 05/12/2011 at 7:43 AM
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