Wolves in the northern Rockies: It ain’t over ’til it’s over


Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Until the next legal dust-up, the northern Rocky Mountain states have new wolf hunting rules. Bidding farewell to Endangered Species Act protection means the fur will fly and wolves will die. And get this–Montana, the state that attempted to legalize big game spear hunting this past legislative session–is by far showing the most restraint. Wyoming and Idaho? Yikes.

First up, Wyoming, where roughly 340 wolves reside; of those, 230 unlucky targets live outside of Yellowstone. Wyoming’s proposed management plans have been so extreme that the Feds (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) refused to turn management over to the state…until now. But it’s hard to see how much of anything has changed, according to this AP article:

Wolves immediately outside Yellowstone would be subject to regulated hunting in a zone that would expand slightly in the winter months to give wolves more protection. Those in the rest of the state would be classified as predators that could be shot on sight.

Fresh off the Endangered Species List and anything goes! The Cowboy State has committed to maintaining just 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone. (“…I think we have come up with something that fits with Wyoming’s values and economy,” says Wyoming’s governor.) In most of the state–outside of the “Trophy Game Management Area” (the buffer around Yellowstone)–wolf is a four-letter word, and predator equals two four-letter words. Click here for the Wyoming and U.S. Department of the Interior Wolf Management Agreement Fact Sheet.

Perhaps the legal scholars who ply these waters can unravel Montana and Idaho’s convoluted, off-again, on-again, off-again ESA maneuvers. But first, let’s consider this lovely quote:

“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists, and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

“A many-faceted treasure.”  Would that politicians today were so thoughtful, visionary, and eloquent! Who said it? President Nixon, upon signing the ESA in 1973. Who quoted it? Judge Donald Molloy, who recently (and reluctantly) in Missoula, MT upheld the wolf delisting rider (Section 1713) attached to H.R. 1473, the Appropriations Act of 2011.

Judge Molloy goes on to write,

Section 1713 sacrifices the spirit ofthe ESA to appease a vocal political faction, but the wisdom of that choice is not now before this Court. The question presented by this lawsuit, challenging the constitutionality of Section 1713 of the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of2011, is whether the rider constitutes a detectable change in the law.

If I were not constrained by what I believe is binding precedent from the Ninth Circuit, and on-point precedent from other circuits, I would hold Section 1713 is unconstitutional because it violates the Separation of Powers doctrine articulated by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Klein, 80 U.S. 128 (1871). However, our Circuit has interpreted Robertson v. Seattle Audubon Society, 503 U.S. 429 (1992), to hold that so long as Congress uses the words “without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies,” or something similar, then the doctrine of constitutional avoidance requires the court to impose a saving interpretation provided the statute can be fairly interpreted to render it constitutional.

If that kind of legal language trips your trigger, read the full decision here.

“If you have to lose a court case, this is about the best possible way to do it,” Kieran Suckling of the Center for Biological Diversity said. “He (Judge Molloy) lays out the pathway for environmentalists to appeal the decision to the Ninth Circuit and have it overturned.”

Idaho’s management is only slightly less odious than Wyoming’s. At least seasons are established, generous as they are. A couple of the hunting units have 10-month seasons; most offer seven-month seasons, and a couple are restricted to four. Idaho Fish & Game claims 1000-plus wolves as native Idahoans; it will have to maintain 15 breeding pairs (minimum) or 150 wolves to avoid re-listing. Quotas? None.

“Wolf seasons are Any-Weapon seasons,” the rules say; “Electronic calls may be used statewide”; and “Wolves may be taken incidentally during fall bear baiting.” But that’s just hunting–wolves can be trapped, too! I know what you’re thinking–how do they propose to keep track of the impending slaughter?

Harvest will be monitored daily and will be posted on the Fish and Game website. Fish and Game will monitor mandatory reporting and check-in data, as well as other sources of wolf mortality, to ensure harvest does not cause the population to approach the 15 breeding pair/150 wolf delisting criteria. Seasons and areas can be closed if mortality is determined to be excessive. ~Wolf season–Key points–Q&A

Montana comes across as downright soft on wolves with a quota of 220 (designed to reduce the population by about 25%, to 425 animals) and limited seasons (the seasons span September through December).  “As with any other game animal, hunters may not use any motorized vehicle to hunt wolves. The use of dogs, bait, sent, lures, traps, lights, electronic tracking devices, or any recorded or electrically amplified bird or animal call to hunt or attract wolves is prohibited,” according to an item in the Great Falls Tribune.

Montana’s junior Senator, Jon Tester (D), is responsible for the wolf rider (along with Rep. Mike Simpson, R-ID), throwing wolves, the ESA, and his supporters (many now former) under the bus for another of his signature “made in Montana” solutions with national implications.

“This is more than a victory for Montana,” said Tester, Chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus. “It’s a win for rural America, for jobs, and for our wildlife—and it’s what’s right for the wolves themselves. This was never going to get done with partisan games or grandstanding. We fixed this problem with Montana values—by putting aside our differences and working together on a responsible, common sense plan.” ~Tester news release

This season’s wolf hunt will likely proceed, even while groups line up to appeal, so stay tuned. It ain’t over ’til it’s over, and the Northern Rockies wolf war has a lengthy shelf life.

Read Animal Blawg founder David N. Cassuto’s wolf op-ed in the Christian Science Monitor here

10 Responses

  1. It’s like people NEVER fricking learn. “What? Theres more of em now? Well I guess we better kill over half of em again and nearly erradicate another species. Sure didn’t learn anything the last time we nearly ended em”

  2. I was reading over the ESA and came across Section 3 [16 U.S.C. 1532] 6. in which they define an endangered species:

    “The term ‘endangered species’ means any species which is in danger of extinction through all or significant portion of its range other than a species of the Class Insecta determined by the Secretary to constitute a pest whose protection under the provisions of this act would present an overwhelming and overriding risk to man.”

    Now, I understand that this provision is meant to prevent the listing of those insect populations that pose an agricultural or pathological risk to human populations, but the final words in this clause (“determined by the Secretary to constitute a pest whose protection under the provisions of this act would present and overwhelming and overriding risk to man”) are so ominous; carrying with them the possibility of arbitrarily determining non-human populations (even those outside Class Insecta) to be “pests” that present “an overwhelming and overriding risk to man” which could expose countless non-human populations to unchecked slaughter [not that I put much stock into the idea of federal species protection in the first place].

    I’m wondering, has the rhetoric of “pests” been used much in this debate over the grey wolves?

  3. […] Stachowski, Wolves in the northern Rockies: It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, Animal Blawg, Aug. 6, […]

  4. we all love our dogs and people go to jail for harming and killing them . how is it that our wolves are again going to be treated like hunting game? they are in homes around the country as beloved pets. i can’t believe the hunters are getting away with this!

  5. Wolf hunting licenses went on sale yesterday in Montana. In today’s local paper:

    “…I kind of like predators, but not wolves. They really need to get some fear of man instilled in them.”

    “We’re not going to be able to kill enough to do any good. They multiply like rats … People are just fed up with the whole deal. That is everyone except for the environmentalists.”

    Read more: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/article_27f98a7c-c23d-11e0-98dd-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1UXTU4fT0

  6. “They multiply like rats”… Ah, yes – And our own species is so responsible in our reproduction. NOT!

  7. Eesh, what terrible responses from Montana’s public.

  8. Deplorable – next they’ll be implementing rewards for paws & shooting from a helicopter, per Palin.

  9. HELENA – A federal appeals court on Thursday denied a request by environmental groups to halt wolf hunts that are scheduled to begin next week in Idaho and Montana.
    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied the request by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and other groups.

    Read more: http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_f8c54cf2-cf8c-11e0-a7e3-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1W8zmTzKo

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