Wolf Delisting Op-ed

David Cassuto

Between Kathleen and me, we’ve taken up a lot of blawgwidth on the wolf issue and yet there’s so much more to be said.  Here’s my bid to bring it into the mainstream media.

Throwing the Wolves Out With the Bathwater

David Cassuto

Odd editorial in today’s NYT.  On the one hand, it lays bare the hypocrisy and bloodlust behind the wolf hunt in the Northern Rockies.  For example, after several wolves were killed just outside of Yellowstone (outside the park boundary, you can kill them), Montana’s wolf program director said, ““We didn’t think wolves would be that vulnerable to firearms harvest.”  Yeah, right.   Then, in Idaho, when hunters just couldn’t kill enough wolves in time, Idaho extended the season to March 31st.

On the other hand, the editorial claims that environmental groups have lost the argument that endangered grey wolves had not yet reached a sustainable population in the region.  It says that the groups are regrouping around the idea of a hunting moratorium until stronger state management plans can be formulated.  This characterization seems both premature and overstated.   Continue reading

A Sub-Optimal Ruling on the Rocky Mountain Wolf Hunt

WolfJudge Molloy has refused to stop the wolf hunt that has already begun in Idaho and will soon begin (September 15th) in Montana.  Yet his decision to deny the preliminary injunction sought by Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, the Humane Society & others does  acknowledge that the plaintiffs will likely prevail (eventually) on the merits.

Courts will only issue preliminary injunctions (which halt the challenged activity while the court considers its permissibility) when plaintiffs show that they are 1) “likely to succeed on the merits,” (2) that they are “likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief,” (3) that the “balance of equities tips” in their favor, and (4) that such an injunction is in the“public interest.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 365, 374 (2008).

In this case, the court determined that it would likely find that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist a portion of a “Distinct Population Segment” of a protected species ran afoul of the Endangered Species Act.  It also concluded that the agency’s decision seemed to contradict its own previous interpretations of its authority under the statute.  Inconsistent agency rulings are not entitled to judicial deference.  Consequently, the court need not defer to the agency’s new interpretation and the plaintiffs would probably prevail. Continue reading

Wolf-delisting: The Politics of Blood

gray-wolf-gazingGeorge Bush and his peeps thought gray wolves should be delisted as endangered species in Montana and Idaho.  So does Ken Salazar and, we must assume, Barack Obama.  Bush and peeps also thought it okay to ignore allies.  So, apparently, do Ken Salazar and Barack Obama.  But never mind politics.

Wolves were hunted to near extinction in this country due in large part to their (undeserved) reputation as dangerous predators and to the caterwauling of ranchers who like to poison, shoot or trap anything that might eat their animals before people do.  Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and a well-executed reintroduction program in the Northwest (carried out over the vociferous protests of ranchers and others), there are now approximately 1600 wolves in the Northern Rockies.

That, apparently, is too many.  Since Montana and Idaho have pledged to maintain populations of 400 and 500 animals, respectively, wolf-hunting may soon commence.  Supposedly, states can be trusted to create sound management plans for the animals.  Idaho Governor Butch Otter has a plan: kill as many as possible without the wolves being relisted.  You see, wolves eat elk and that means less elk for people to shoot.  It’s a crime perpetrated on the American sportsman.  Upon hearing the news of the imminent delisting, Governor Otter howled with glee and declared, “I’m prepared to bid for that first ticket to shoot a wolf myself.”

One wonders if Idaho and Montana will be like Alaska — where “hunters” can shoot wolves from the air.  Or maybe it will just be another classic confrontation of a heavily armed man against an unarmed animal who, when it dies, will almost certainly be attempting to flee.  You see, in the history of the United States, there has never been a fatal attack on a human by a wolf.  Never.

My son is doing a report on wolves for his class.  He has become fascinated by their language, their pack life, and their intelligence.  He is incredulous that they were extirpated from most of the United States and indignant about their undeserved reputation.  Last night, I told him of the Obama Administration’s decision.  He was heartbroken.

dnc