Posted on 13 November 2012.
Jason Rylander, Senior Staff Attorney
Wyoming’s wolves will be getting their day in court. Today, Defenders of Wildlife — along with our colleagues at the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and the Center for Biological Diversity, all represented by Earthjustice — officially filed suit in federal district court in the District of Columbia challenging the Obama Administration’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming. Since the final delisting rule took effect on September 30, it has been open season on wolves in most of the state.
A gray wolf in Yellowstone National Park
Two months ago, as required by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), we filed a notice of intent to sue the administration if it did not reconsider its premature delisting of Wyoming’s wolves. At that time, I wrote that we would file a complaint in the U.S. District Court at the very first opportunity. That we would “ask the court to declare this rule illegal, and put wolves back on the endangered species list until Wyoming adopts a responsible management plan that ensures the continued survival and recovery of wolves in the region.”
Now the mandatory waiting period is over, and that is just what we have done. We are cautiously optimistic. Courts have thus far found every previous attempt to delist wolves in the northern Rockies to be illegal under the ESA. Unfortunately, wolves in Montana and Idaho were delisted by an unprecedented act of Congress in 2011. Since then, Montana and Idaho have allowed ever more aggressive wolf management, including liberalized hunting seasons, wolf quotas, and even trapping. Now Wyoming could be next. As of October 1, 2012, Wyoming was thought to have an estimated 328 wolves. Under the Wyoming delisting rule, however, the state has committed to maintaining just 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. In up to 85 percent of the state, wolves lack any protections and can be killed by any means at any time. In sum, Wyoming’s wolf management plan is a throwback to the days when wolves were recklessly targeted for elimination, and not a scientifically-based strategy for keeping wolves off the endangered species list.
As we wrote in the complaint we filed today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist Wyoming’s wolves “despite excessive human-caused mortality promoted under state management, contradicts the purposes and mandates of the ESA” and “ignores fundamental principles of conservation biology. Thus, the delisting rule is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and contrary to the law, and must be set aside.” We hope the court agrees. As the case moves forward, we’ll be sure to keep you updated on new developments.
As with many lawsuits, progress may be slow, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Wyoming’s wolves cannot speak up for themselves — it’s up to us, with your support, to bring their voice into the courtroom, and to tell people that what is happening in Wyoming is anything but responsible wildlife management.
Posted in Features, Gray Wolf, Northern Rockies Gray Wolf, Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, Species at Risk, Wildlife, wolves
Posted on 04 October 2011.
USFWS pursues premature delisting based on inadequate state management plan
WASHINGTON (October 4, 2011) – The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published a proposed rule today that would remove federal protections for endangered gray wolves in Wyoming. USFWS is moving forward with the delisting even though the state wolf management plan has yet to be approved by the Wyoming legislature. As currently written, the plan treats wolves as predators, allowing the animals to be killed at any time by any means across nearly 90 percent of the state, including on the public’s national forests where wildlife management is a core purpose. Wolves in the rest of the state could still be killed with a hunting license, and this licensed hunting area will expand seasonally to allow for dispersing wolves. Inside Yellowstone National Park, wolves will remain fully protected.
The following is a statement from Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of Defenders of Wildlife:
“The Fish and Wildlife Service should not be removing protections for wolves in Wyoming under these circumstances. The proposed delisting rule effectively endorses a state management plan that permits unmanaged wolf killing across the vast majority of the state, and it only perpetuates the notion that wolves are unwanted predators.
“Our country has spent decades restoring these animals because they are vital to maintaining balanced ecosystems and a healthy environment. We can’t achieve full recovery by relegating wolves to one corner of the state. This plan does an extreme disservice to all the hard work that’s been done to bring wolves back from near extinction and could reverse the many benefits they bring to the landscape.
“What’s particularly disconcerting is that this plan will allow wolves to be needlessly killed in our national forests. Wolves are part of our national wildlife heritage and should not be shot on sight on public land that belongs to all Americans. We expect our nation’s wildlife agency to uphold our commitment to good stewardship of our lands and wildlife, not rubber-stamp an irresponsible wolf management plan for the sake of political expediency.”
“The proposed delisting rule effectively endorses a state management plan that permits unmanaged wolf killing across the vast majority of the state, and it only perpetuates the notion that wolves are unwanted predators.” — Jamie Rappaport Clark, Defenders president
Gray wolves across the Northern Rockies were protected as an endangered species until this spring, when a rider attached to a must-pass budget bill stripped protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana. Wolves in Wyoming remained protected since the state did not have a federally approved state management plan in place. In recent months, the state of Wyoming and the U.S. Department of the Interior have agreed on the terms of a state management plan. DOI announced the principles of that agreement in early August, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved a state management plan based on those principles on Sept. 14. The Wyoming legislature must still approve the plan before it is finalized.
Read Wyoming’s wolf management plan
Read Defenders comments on the Wyoming wolf management plan
Learn more about Defenders’ efforts to protect wolves in the Northern Rockies
On our blog: read our weekly wrap-up of western wolf news
Posted in Features, Press Releases, Rocky Mountains and Great Plains, Species at Risk, Wildlife, wolves