Wolf Delisting News

Big Game Forever

Big Game Forever Supporters,
There is more big news for the Northern Rockies and Western Great Lakes on wolf delisting.  Yesterday, May 5, 2011, US Fish and Wildlife Service announced finalization of wolf delisting of the Northern Rockies (not including Wyoming) and also the Western Great Lakes (after a public comment period).  The decision to delist is based on overwhealming consensus that: (1) gray wolves are recovered; and (2) that is not appropriate to use the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as an ongoing management tool in these states.  Interior Secretary Ken Salazar boldly explained, “From a biological perspective [wolves] have now recovered.”  Separately Secretary Salazar indicated, “These delistings are possible because the species is recovered in these regions.”
There have been many developments as a result of these decisions that have generated some very interesting questions.  Here is what these developments mean.
Northern Rockies
Big Game Forever is pleased to announce that wolf management activities can officially resume in Idaho and Montana immediately. Yesterday, May 5, 2011, the 2009 Northern Rockies delisting rule was republished in the federal register. Because the Northern Rockies delisting rule is backed by Congressional action, reissuance of the rule was the final technicality necessary for Idaho and Montana to begin wolf management activities. This means that wolf hunts should resume this fall in Idaho and Montana. Idaho wolf tags can now be purchased at https://id.outdoorcentral.us/. I just bought my tag.

For spring wolf control, Idaho Fish and Game feels that sufficient snow pack remains to allow for emergency wolf removal activities in key elk management zones. Montana will be holding public meetings next week related to its 2011 wolf management plans. Sportsmen of Idaho and Montana should make every effort to attend these meetings and otherwise let their voice be heard. We will keep you updated as further developments occur.

A coalition of anti-sportsmen groups have already announced that they will challenge the constitutionality of this Congressional action. This action makes it increasingly clear that some groups will stop at nothing to stop responsible predator management by the states.  While the open-ended nature of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) have made previous challenges fairly easy for private litigants, this lawsuit will be much, much more difficult. Notably, the tool box of private litigation provisions under the ESA should not apply in the case.  In essence, the plaintiffs will have to show that Congress exceeded its authority in enacting this particular legislation, which will be difficult given that similar provisions have been repeatedly upheld as Constitutional.   Adding to the difficulty of the challenge is that fact that a constitutional review of the legislation was done by Congress before the enactment of the wolf delisting provisions.

Western Great Lakes
Yesterday, a final delisting rule was also published for the Western Great Lakes region, including Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan. This starts a public comment period which could result in delisting for Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan in the next few months. We will ask Big Game Forever supports to add your own comment in support of delisting of the Western Great Lakes. We will forward information for submitting public comments in coming days.

We agree with USFWS’s assessment that Gray Wolf populations have recovered and should be delisted. However, we remain very concerned that administrative delisting does nothing to stop the litigation that has been used repeatedly to derail previous final delisting rules. It takes just one group or individual to file a lawsuit to block wolf delisting. In fact, one group has already indicated they will not hesitate to challenge Western Great Lakes delisting in court. Given the newly filed wolf lawsuits it is clear that without Congressional action, open ended ESA lawsuits remain a serious concern for delisting of wolf populations in the Western Great Lakes.

States left out of delisting decisions
Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, California, Oregon and Washington, Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and a number of other key states are not delisted, or will not be able to undertake proactive state wolf management activities, as a result of these delisting decisions. Additionally, concerns remain that ongoing federal involvement in state management decisions, could lead to further federal restrictions or even potentially lead to unnecessary relisting of wolves.

Fish and Wildlife officials have indicated that they intend to review the gray wolf’s status in the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and New England, but do not anticipate another reintroduction effort. This could mean further delays in delisting in the states of Oregon and Washington. We will keep you apprised of these developments as they occur.

ESA litigation in non-delisted states also remains a concern. A decision to remove two problem wolves in Oregon has already been challenged in court. In a very telling conversation, a spokesperson for US Fish and Wildlife Service is quoted as saying that wolf attacks on livestock in Wallowa County have become chronic and that non-lethal controls aren’t working.  For the full article see http://news.opb.org/article/conservation-groups-sue-stop-wolf-killing/

Big Game Forever continues to work on solutions to return wolves to state wildlife management for all affected states. As previously stated, Secretary Salazar has indicated that gray wolf recovery is essentially complete, “From a biological perspective [wolves] have now recovered.” Several members of Congress have also been told that USFWS acknowledges that very limited areas of suitable gray wolf habitat that remain unoccupied. With wolf recovery complete, there remains little or no reason not to clearly resolve the wolf issue with Congressional legislation.  It has become increasingly clear that without responsible predator management, wildlife populations are at risk.

We ask everyone to continue to work together to stop efforts to undermine states’ rights to manage wolves.

Ryan Benson
Founder Big Game Forever

Join the fight to protect America’s Livestock and Wildlife Resources by signing the petition at http://biggameforever.org/.

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