Wolves, Laws and Parochialism

David Cassuto

I would like to say a few more words about the so-called “State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act and its stated intent to strip wolves of all Endangered Species Act protections.  While I have no reason to assume this bill will pass (are you listening, Congress?), the fact that officials elected to national office could propose such a thing underscores much of what’s wrong with, well, with everything.

As an initial matter, wolves pose little threat to people.  In the 230+ year history of the United States, the number of wolf attacks can probably be counted on one person’s fingers and toes.  The number of fatal attacks is far fewer.  Wolves do, however, sometimes eat livestock.  Since their reintroduction (emphasis on re– introduction because they used to live there until we exterminated them) into the Northern Rockies, ranchers have raised a royal ruckus because they occasionally lose animals to wolves.  Rather than treat this as a cost of doing business, ranchers argue that the wolves’ existence constitutes an unwelcome intrusion into the natural order of things.  This despite the fact that the wolves used to inhabit the region in far greater numbers than the 1700 or so that currently exist there and that ranching (and the factory farming that it supports) has caused widespread damage to the region’s ecosystem.           Continue reading

Research Hunts & Conservation Hunts: New Ways to Fetishize Wolf Slaughter

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about the duplicity of Japan’s “research” hunting of whales.  The practice is little more than a disingenuous attempt to circumvent the global ban on whale killing by pretending the slaughter has some scientific purpose.  I called on the rest of the world to repudiate such tactics and to hold them up to public scrutiny and scorn.

Then, a few weeks ago, a federal judge in the U.S.  ruled that gray wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies violated the Endangered Species Act.  Guess what then happened:  U.S. wildlife officials proposed a “research hunt” to kill the wolves. Apparently, their idea was that it was okay to kill listed species as long as you claimed a scientific reason for doing so.  You know, just like they do in Japan with the whales. Continue reading

A New & Welcome Chapter in the Wolf Saga

David Cassuto

I’ve blogged a fair bit about the ill-advised delisting of gray wolves as endangered species in the northern Rockies, as well as about the lawsuit that followed.  When last we left the story, the district court had denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the wolf hunts that subsequently took place in Montana and Idaho.  The judge did indicate, though, that the plaintiffs had a strong chance of prevailing on the merits (the standard for a preliminary injunction is formidably high, as discussed here).               Continue reading

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 Hunt Update

wolf-with-pupThe wolf hunt in Idaho and Montana has begun (I first blogged about it here).  A number of environmental groups sued, asking for an injunction but, since Idaho released the details of its plan of the hunt only 2 weeks ago, the court was left with very little time to consider the case.  Consequently, while the court ponders whether an injunction is appropriate, the hunt goes on. Unless and until the court intervenes, Idaho hunters can kill up to 220 wolves,  Montanans 75 wolves, and Nez Perce tribe members 35.

With all respect to the court (and the judge hearing the case has been sympathetic to this issue in the past), I do not understand why an injunction cannot issue immediately.  There is ample evidence to support the fact that a viable  Rocky Mountain wolf population should number at least 2000 (there are currently approximately 1640).  I remain appalled as well with the Obama Administration’s ham-handed, ignorant and insensitive management of this issue.  If you agree with me (and the NYT), I urge you to let President Obama and your congressional delegation know of your dismay.

–David Cassuto

A Bill to Ban Aerial Wolf Hunting

wolf huntingI’m fresh off the Long Trail.  Every year, my son and I head into the Vermont woods to be together and to be alone.  These are the best of times.

During my absence some good things happened.  For example, Judge Sotomayor got confirmed.  Plus, a few tentative steps were taken to halt the shooting of wolves from airplanes in Alaska.

Senator Feinstein and Congressman Miller (both CA Democrats) have introduced legislation to ban the shooting of wolves from the air by anyone other than state or federal wildlife employees during declared biological emergencies.

Aerial wolf killing–which Alaskans twice voted to ban only to have their wishes rejected by the State Legislature — is about as far from hunting as CAFOs are from farming.  Furthermore, despite Sarah Palin’s garblings, this issue does not implicate the 2nd Amendment and has nothing to do with Ashley Judd.  It is about using fixed wing aircraft to terrify and then butcher defenseless animals.

Proponents call this practice “predator control.”   Actually, that would make a good title for this bill.  Never have there been predators more in need of control.  Let us wish this bill godspeed as it runs the legislative gauntlet.

More here and here.

–David Cassuto