Groups urge federal courts to relist wolves in Montana
| September 12, 2022 12:00 AM
Several conservation groups argue that because Montana and Idaho are “hellbent” on eradicating wolves, a court should instate equally aggressive measures aimed at restoring federal protection for gray wolves.
In both of the Rocky Mountain states, lawmakers have relaxed rules about wolf hunting. For example, Idaho now allows private contractors to kill wolves, permits year-round trapping on private land, and allows hunters and trappers to kill an unlimited number.
Montana has also loosened trapping rules and increased the number of wolves that can be killed. It has drawn fire for nearly decimating a pack of wolves that spend most of the time inside the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park but were hunted after crossing the border into state land.
Montana can use bait to lure wolves, as well as use night scopes to hunt them, means not usually allowed for other species.
While wolves are protected in many states under the federal Endangered Species Act, they were delisted in Idaho, Montana, eastern Washington, eastern Oregon and northern Utah because of a congressional legislative rider in 2011. A court battle in Wyoming also booted the wolves from protection there.
Supporters of more permissive wolf hunting measures have argued a high wolf population in some places means the animals are killing more elk, deer and moose. Some hunters have said more wolves mean fewer ungulates for them, although biologists have reported other predators have a significant impact on elk.
However, groups, including The Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club, have filed a federal lawsuit arguing that the wolves need emergency protection in the two states “to prevent wolves from being virtually eradicated from the northern Rockies as a result of the new laws.”
Because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service failed to make a decision on whether the gray wolves warrant the designation “threatened” or “endangered,” they argue in the lawsuit that courts must order the federal agency to protect them. Late last year, the FWS made a finding that information filed by the groups last year to re-list the wolves presented “credible and substantial information that human-caused mortality may be a potential threat to species in Montana.”
The federal wildlife service also addressed the new laws passed by the states saying the new laws “may be inadequate to address this potential threat.”
Because the FWS missed its own deadline to make a determination, the groups are asking the court to order it to make a decision about whether federal protection is warranted.
“The Endangered Species Act’s substantive protections cannot safeguard a species facing extinction until the species is formally listed as endangered or threatened,” the lawsuit states.
“Because Idaho and Montana are hellbent on eradicating wolves from their states, these animals desperately need federal protection now,” said Andrea Zaccardi, carnivore conservation legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Fish and Wildlife Service can’t stand idly by while these states let hunters and trappers kill hundreds of wolves every year.”