Litigation looms regardless of Wyo wildlife decisions
Casper – “In my own opinion, there are clearly guarantees in place to assure that Wyoming’s wolf management plan will work,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department (G&F) Director Terry Cleveland said in a wildlife report to the Wyoming Stock Growers during their summer convention in early June.
On May 27 the decision to delist the gray wolf was challenged in Missoula, Mont. Cleveland said the judge had not yet rendered his decision, but he expected it within seven to 10 days from the court date.
“If the rule is enjoined, there will be litigation. If it’s not enjoined, there will be litigation,” said Cleveland. “In addition to the motion to enjoin, the actual case regarding whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should have delisted is ongoing.”
Cleveland expects a year to pass before a ruling is made on whether or not the delisting was warranted, and that an appeal would take another year or two beyond that. “Meanwhile, wolves will keep doing what wolves do, and hopefully the court won’t enjoin so we can get on with the state management plan,” he said.
If state management is enjoined, the G&F will enter into a memorandum with FWS in the trophy game area and those in the predatory animal area would be entirely under the authority of the FWS, aside from the G&F tracking depredation and wolf mortality.
Meanwhile, the G&F has hired three wolf conflict specialists to be based out of Lander, Cody and Pinedale. “Regardless of enjoining or overturning, we have the responsibility to address, investigate and pay for livestock losses in wolf/livestock conflicts in the trophy game area.”
In addition to Cleveland’s comments on the wolf litigation in Montana, WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna said, “We did intervene in the litigation that seeks to pull back state authority and place wolves back under the ESA. The reports I got back from that hearing were optimistic – the judge’s questioning seemed to indicate he didn’t think the issues regarding genetic diversity would change in the time it takes to hear the suit, which means he may not be inclined to grant the injunction.”
Wyoming’s wolf hunting season will be decided through public hearings and comments, with hearings held in Laramie, Green River, Pinedale, Jackson, Cody, Sheridan and Lander. The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will act on the wolf hunting rules at their July meeting in Dubois. If the court enjoins the wolf delisting, rulemaking on wolf hunting will stop.
Cleveland says Wyoming has still seen very little wolf conflict this spring, although most wolves have denned lower than expected because of the hard winter. “Wolves are expected to continue to increase in number and geographic distribution,” he said.
“Sixteen wolves have been killed in the predatory animal area since March 28. Nine of those were because of livestock conflict, and seven were for sport harvest. We’ve had less total wolves killed in that area this year than were killed in the last two or three years for livestock conflicts.”
In December 2007 the FWS was ordered to reconsider their 2005 decision that listing of the sage grouse was not warranted. As a part of the reconsideration, states are working to collect necessary data to provide to FWS no later than June 27.
“The Service will analyze the data provided by the states from the BLM, industry and the ag community and by early fall they’ll have developed a recommendation to their director, who will render a decision sometime in December as to whether the sage grouse should actually be listed,” explained Cleveland.
“Either way, it will be litigated and a federal court will probably end up making the decision as to whether the sage grouse warrants listing,” he said. “It’s a reiteration of where we’ve been with wolves and grizzly bears. It’s the sage grouse today, and it’ll be another species tomorrow.”
“We work on a daily basis with the BLM, the Governor’s office and interest groups, and I think we can keep them from being listed,” he stated. “It will take effort from everyone, but the ultimate decision will be with the FWS and, beyond that, a federal district court.”
Christy Hemken is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.