Wolf Facts and What It Means To You
By J. Mitch King
ATA Director of Government Relations
New Ulm, Minn. –-(Ammoland.com)- After some very interesting activities over the last few weeks, we have finally crossed a significant milestone in dealing with wolf issues and the impacts they are having on those wildlife populations for which we are so protective.
After the failure of some last minute legal negotiations, Congress finally intervened and legislatively delisted the gray wolf in almost all of the Northern Rocky Mountains.
I’ll try to summarize some of the happenings of the last few weeks and talk about what the next most important actions may be.
If you need background to any of what you read here, I urge you to visit the Archery Trade Association’s Web site by clicking here.
THE LEGAL FRONT
You may recall in my last “Wolf Facts” (#4), I mentioned an “agreement” between the US Fish and Wildlife Service and most of the plaintiffs regarding the lawsuit that was decided by Judge Malloy last August (2010) which returned the wolf to the Endangered Species Act list in Montana and Idaho. The proposed “agreement” would have allowed the wolf to be delisted in Montana and Idaho until an acceptable wolf management plan for Wyoming could be developed. At that time, delisting of the entire three-state area would then take place. In early April, Judge Malloy rejected this agreement.
THE LEGISLATIVE FRONT
On the legislative front, the response to Judge Malloy’s rejection of the proposed agreement was quick and effective. Representative Simpson (R-ID) and Senator Tester (D-MT) moved quickly to revive their proposed legislation that would effectively reinstate the Service’s last decision to delist the gray wolf in the Northern Rockies, except for Wyoming. This would include delisting in all of Idaho and Montana and in small portions of eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northeastern Utah. The legislation also has language that supports the Judge Johnson decision for Wyoming which found that the Service had erred in their decision when they rejected Wyoming’s wolf management plan.
The timing of the decision by Judge Malloy and the quick response by Representative Simpson and Senator Tester allowed this language to be incorporated into the Federal Budget legislation that moved through both the House and Senate and was signed by the President on Friday (April 15).
Within 60 days (on or about June 15) the Service must reissue their February, 2009 ruling that delisted the wolf in the Northern Rockies (except for Wyoming). Most important, this action by the Service will not be subject to further judicial review. Further, the law states that Judge Johnson’s ruling against the Service on the Wyoming rule stands. So the Service is under considerable pressure to resolve issues with Wyoming’s wolf management plan.
THE ATA & OTHER FRONTS
I’m hearing some promising news regarding talks between the Service and the Wyoming Governor’s Office. It appears that both sides are close to agreeing on a plan that will slightly expand the area of wolf protection south of Jackson to allow for winter wolf movement, while allowing Wyoming wildlife officials to manage wolf populations much like the state has successfully managed all other wildlife species since statehood.
Unfortunately, the Great Lakes States have a tough road ahead. While the Service and those states (Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin) feel reasonably comfortable that the standard process for delisting is underway and will be successful, we have heard this before and we all know how easy it is for environmental advocates to ignore sound science and find a flaw in the process and then run to the courts and find an agreeable judge.
THE ATA POSITION
The position of the ATA remains unchanged. We continue to recognize that there is a strong scientific basis for delisting the wolf in all six states (MT, ID, WY, MI, MN and WI). All six of these states have fully recovered gray wolf populations. They also have wolf management plans that satisfy the requirements of the Endangered Species Act and each state’s management plan has been approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service.
While the recently passed legislation is a step in the right direction and it certainly provides some relief for the Northern Rockies sportsmen, it is a disappointment on two fronts. First, Wyoming has a wolf management plan that was originally approved by the Service; and, Judge Johnson found that the Service’s decision to withdraw their approval was a departure from sound science. The bottom line in my opinion is that Wyoming should have been included in the legislation.
Second, the three Great Lakes states (Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin) all have wolf management plans that have been accepted by the Service and are facing the same wolf related issues as the Northern Rocky Mountain states. In fact Minnesota has had recovered wolf populations longer than any state, by far. These Great Lakes states should have been included in the legislation as well.
At this stage, given all the starts and stops and legal road blocks, any movement forward on this issue is better than where we have been. Representative Simpson and Senator Tester should be commended for moving this legislation forward in an expedient and effective manner and for forcing this issue which should bring action on more fronts.
Further, based on all we are hearing, the modifications to Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan seem to represent a reasonable middle-ground for all parties involved. If nothing else, the flurry of recent activity may get Wyoming’s plan approved which will move management forward in the Northern Rockies.
Long term, those of us who have been around since the Endangered Species Act was enacted continue to have concerns about the true success of this program. When this law was passed in 1973, the motivation of the conservation community was to identify species that were endangered to protect them but, more important, recover populations to levels that would be sustained long term. The accepted successful outcome of this act was when species would be returned to the states for management.
If you consider the past actions of environmental advocates like the Defenders of Wildlife and especially animal rights organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, these groups would appear to never be willing to allow state wildlife agencies to manage a species that has been fully recovered. Yet the track record of the states is exemplary when it comes to countless species such as the bald eagle and many raptors, whooping cranes and many shore birds and waterfowl, and, of course, the species we take for granted today such as deer, elk, turkey’s and many more.
The ATA will continue to stay engaged in this process and look for solutions to bring full delisting to all six states where sound science has found that the gray wolf has been effectively recovered.