On Tuesday, Defenders Went to Court for the Gray Wolves in Wyoming
In 2011, Congress stripped federal protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho. A year later, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decided to delist gray wolves in Wyoming and Defenders immediately filed suit, claiming that Wyoming’s wolf management plan did not offer a sustainable path for continued wolf recovery. The court hearing for that case took place on Tuesday of this week, with Defenders’ representatives making an impassioned argument on behalf of Wyoming’s wolves before a federal judge. After the hearing, Jason Rylander, Defenders Senior Staff Attorney, said the judge was receptive to Defenders’ arguments. “The questions asked by Judge Jackson at this week’s hearing got to the heart of the issue,” Rylander said. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cannot ensure sustainable populations of wolves in Wyoming when the state’s laws allow so much unregulated wolf killing.” Topics addressed by the court included the adequacy of regulatory mechanisms in Wyoming, and whether Wyoming’s state management plan allows for adequate connectivity between wolf populations – essential for the packs’ genetic diversity … Stay tuned for updates as news from the hearing continues to unfold.
Things Get Worse in Idaho
We learned this week that Idaho Department of Fish and Game hired a hunter/trapper to kill two wolf packs in the massive, remote and livestock-free Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. The state wants these wolf packs killed by a hired hunter/trapper because “hunters have a hard time getting into the area.” This is the first time a hunter has been contracted by the state government to kill wolves in central Idaho’s large wilderness areas. Sadly, even though the hired hunter-trapper will be seeking out wolves on U.S. Forest Service wilderness area, the U.S. Forest Service will not oppose the planned kills, having told Defenders’ representatives that the U.S. Forest Service isn’t responsible for wildlife management on U.S. Forest Service land. We know this is hard news for those who value wolves and wildlife to hear, but Defenders is continuing to work hard at the state level to counteract these harmful policies.
Last week, we also told you about the “wolf derby” planned for December 28th in Idaho. It is believed to be the first competitive wolf-killing contest in the Lower 48 since wolves went on the Endangered Species list in 1974 – and it’s precisely the sort of extermination-era tactics that led to wolves’ near-extinction in the first place. Click here to join us in asking Governor Otter and Director Moore for an emergency closure of the Salmon Zone where the contest is scheduled to take place.
Gray Wolf Comment Period Closed
On Dec. 17, the USFWS comment period for the gray wolf delisting proposal officially ended. In total, our environmental coalition estimates that USFWS received nearly 1 million comments in opposition; about ¼ of which came directly from Defenders members.
In response to the closing, Defenders President Jamie Rappaport Clark, said: “The incredible volume of comments give voice to a sad fact – the delisting proposal is a radical departure from the optimism and courage we need to promote endangered species recovery in this country. The comments show that Americans believe the Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal falls well short of the conservation ideals this country stood for 40 years ago when the Endangered Species Act was signed.” The comment period on the proposed changes to Mexican gray wolf management also closed on the 17th with a record number of comments, the great majority of which support strong recovery actions for lobos. The next step in the Mexican gray wolf rule change will be the issuing of a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the changes. This is expected in early 2014 and will trigger another comment period and public hearings. Stay tuned to speak up again for lobos!
Dec. 15 Seattle Citizen Hearing
Last week we told you that citizens in Seattle decided to host their own citizens hearing, because USFWS did not hold a public hearing anywhere in the Pacific Northwest in advance of the comment period closing on the gray wolf delisting proposal. This event went really well according to our Defenders staff in attendance, with over 100 folks joining together to provide testimony to USFWS. Community events are a great way to build support on this issue; we were glad this event gave folks the opportunity to network and to pledge to work together to keep Washington wild by protecting its native wildlife!