MISSOULA, Mont.-The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation maintains a ruling that restores federal protections to wolves in Wyoming is basically a technicality that can easily be fixed on Wyoming's end. The State of Wyoming is in the process of adopting an emergency rule to do so.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled out of her Washington D.C. courtroom that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was wrong to rely on Wyoming's non-binding promises to maintain a buffer above the FWS minimum of 10 breeding pair and at least 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Montana and Idaho initially had the 10 breeding pair and 100 wolf minimum, but a 50 percent "buffer" of 15 breeding pairs and 150 wolves was implemented for those two states.
The plaintiffs argued the following four points about the Wyoming wolf population, and they were denied a favorable ruling by Judge Jackson relative to the first three:
1. Wolves have not recovered.
2. Wolves are at risk because of a lack of genetic connectivity.
3. Wyoming allowing wolves to be treated as a predator in some areas does not meet the Endangered Species Act requirements of protections over a significant part of the species' range.
4. Wyoming's current regulatory mechanism to insure a population of more than 10 breeding pair and 100 wolves is inadequate and represents a non-binding promise.
"There are some silver linings within this ruling handed down from Judge Jackson as she ruled against three claims made by the plaintiffs including confirmation of the fact that Wyoming's wolf population has recovered and is not endangered," said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. "We anticipate Wyoming will be able to fix the issue with how its wolf management plan is written to satisfy the court."
"She held that Wyoming's plan was not sufficiently formalized to support the Fish and Wildlife Service's 2012 rule allowing limited take of gray wolves. We believe an emergency rule can remedy this, and I have instructed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Attorney General to proceed accordingly," said Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.
The State of Wyoming already asked the court to reverse the ruling. Mead also began the process to make the state's minimum wolf population pledge legally enforceable by signing and filing an emergency rule. In the meantime, it suspended wolf hunting in the northwest part of Wyoming scheduled to begin in October. The judge's decision also impacts year-round hunting in the rest of the state as well as landowners protecting livestock and pets.
The latest wolf count indicates a minimum of 320 packs and 1,691 wolves in the Northern Rockies as of December 31, 2013, including at least 306 wolves in 43 packs in Wyoming.
"The real shame of this continuing litigation and legal maneuvering by HSUS, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and others is the amount of American taxpayer money the judge may award them for their legal fees, all in the name of the Equal Access to Justice Act. This is a continued misuse of taxpayer dollars for an ideological agenda that has little to do with wolves. This is not conservation work," added Allen.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 200,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 6.4 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America's hunting heritage. Discover why "Hunting Is Conservation™" at www.rmef.org
or 800-CALL ELK.