Wednesday, October 1, 2014

#Wolves Win AGAIN! Wyoming wolves stay under fed jurisdiction

State’s attempt to reverse decision is rejected Tuesday.

Posted: Wednesday, October 1, 2014
If Wyoming leaders had their way, today would have been the opener of the 2014 wolf hunt. But the hunt will not go on.
After two years with wolves under state control, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson affirmed Tuesday that Wyoming’s wolves would be managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — for now, at least.
Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and pro-hunting groups had requested that Jackson reconsider her Sept. 23 ruling. The state issued an emergency rule over the weekend that was intended to address her concerns.
In response to a 2012 lawsuit, Jackson ruled last week in favor of six conservation groups, stripping Wyoming wildlife managers of authority to manage the state’s wolves, calling it “arbitrary and capricious” to “rely on the state’s non-binding promises to maintain a particular number of wolves.”
Gov. Matt Mead responded to Jackson’s affirmation of the ruling with disappointment.

“Wyoming has been successful in its management of gray wolves,” Mead said in a statement. “There were more wolves in Wyoming at the end of 2013 than in 2012. Wyoming has managed wolves well above the minimum and buffer population numbers.
“Overturning the [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service] delisting decision on a technicality highlights Wyoming’s concerns with the Endangered Species Act,” the governor said.
Hunting advocates dismayed
Wyoming hunting advocates shared his concerns.
Bob Wharff, executive director of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, was discouraged that there could be an extended period ahead when wolves cannot be hunted.
“It’s amazing to me that we can win on the major challenges and lose on a technicality,” Wharff said. “Her ruling clearly stated that wolves are not threatened or endangered, and that they’re clearly recovered. She said that the challenge that the predator zone was a significant portion of their range was unfounded.
“Yet she chose to hang her hat on a technicality,” he said. “It doesn’t bode well for our system of laws. To me this was legislation from the bench.”
According to The Associated Press, Jackson’s decision leaves Wyoming and the Fish and Wildlife Service with the choice of appealing or developing a revised management plan. The planning can take years and will require more public comment, during which time Wyoming wolves will remain protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Wyoming wildlife managers said they will join the fight to regain control.
“We will continue to work with the Wyoming Attorney General’s Office to address relevant concerns and ensure wolf management is returned to the state,” Brian Nesvik, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s chief game warden, said in a statement.
Wolf numbers healthy
In two years of hunting Wyoming’s wolf population stayed mostly stable. At last assessment wolf numbers within state jurisdiction had swelled by about 5 percent, increasing by 13 animals to 199 wolves running in 30 packs.
About another 100 wolves live in Yellowstone National Park and on the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Conservation groups applauded word that the judge had upheld her ruling.
The law firm Earthjustice argued the case on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Fund for Animals, Humane Society of the United States, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
Ralph Henry, deputy director for litigation at the Humane Society of the United States, told The Associated Press his group believes it’s time for state and federal regulators to take a new approach to Wyoming wolf management.
“We think that the federal court was right to put the brakes on that effort,” Henry said.
The Humane Society, Henry said, was concerned that Wyoming’s management plan showed the state was acting aggressively and recklessly to reduce wolf numbers to the bare minimum.
Wyoming managers had been looking for a population of 160 wolves. Models predict that 140 wolves are necessary to ensure there are 10 breeding pairs in the state, which was a condition of the state’s delisting agreement.
Wharff is standing behind Wyoming’s management plan, which includes a shoot-on-sight “predator zone” that covers more than 80 percent of the state.
“I think that environmental groups are extremely naive to think that Wyoming is going to be doing anything different,” he said.
“I’m just hoping sportsmen will not lose their faith in the system and take the law into their own hands,” Wharff said. “A lot of people are talking about the three S’s” — shoot, shovel and shut up — “I don’t condone that type of activity, and I can’t advocate that. We’re a country of laws.”