Wyoming weighs in on Wolf Litigation

The state of Wyoming has submitted briefs to Judge Molloy’s court rejecting a broad coalition of conservation and animal rights groups’ request for an injunction of the decision to delist wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Wyo argues against relistingStar Tribune

Once more, the state avoids mentioning the precipitous nature of the wolf deaths immediately following delisting, instead citing numbers that maintained wolves under federal measures of protection.

Wyoming apparently believes that it can little more than promise ‘enough’ wolves will be preserved without backing up that promise with the adequate regulatory mechanisms prescribed by federal law should delisting be appropriate.



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  1. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    Here’s my letter to the reporter about this story:


    I think it’s important in news stories to point out the reason wolves need to be relisted is that the states haven’t met the 1994 requirements for delisting yet. Wyoming is trying to muddle the issue with the “how many wolves are enough” question and unfortunately Franz and other enviros are also playing that game, but unless it can be proven that the feds and State’s answer to that question is arbitrary and capricious, which is a high legal bar to jump, the State and the FWS will win on that issue. Numbers may be relevant but it’s not the fundamental issue. You don’t want to play into the agency discretion arguments the states and the feds are making.

    The issue is that Wyoming’s dual status is illegal–it violates the ESA and it violates the delisting criteria established in the 1994 Final Rule. We’ve discussed this before. For delisting, the state plans were required to ensure connectivity among wolf subpopulations in the 3 states to ensure a functioning metapopulation and Wyoming was required to enact an “adequate regulatory mechanism” for wolf conservation and management statewide. Neither condition applies. As I mentioned in my original comments on Wyoming’s wolf plan from 2002, which I sent you, the EIS for reintroduction considered an alternative that is similar to Wyoming’s dual status plan, the old 1987 Wolf Management Committee proposal, which would have allowed for excessive mortality outside Yellowstone, and which was rejected as contrary to the goals for recovery, primarily, because that proposal wouldn’t ensure a functioning metapopulation. That was alternative 4 in the EIS.

    As far as the feds are concerned, the argument that it’s not necessary to ensure recovery across the wolf’s historical range goes against the ESA and 30 years of agency precedent in interpreting the ESA. The FWS just flip flopped on that question–it underlies the whole problem with how FWS denotes a distinct population segment–without any legal or scientific justification and certainly without public notice and comment.

    Biologically and ecologically, raw numbers count less with a species like the wolf that has a high reproductive capacity. What’s more important is that we have wolves in as many places as possible and that those wolves are connected genetically. That is, a functioning and healthy metapopulation of wolves with a wide distribution of functioning packs across the landscape is the sine qua non of wolf recovery. And that of course is what the states and the livestock industry absolutely do not want. But that’s what the law and ecological thinking require. Let’s not get tripped up on mere numbers. We need wolves everywhere suitable habitat exists. If we can achieve something near to that, it would be best to let the wolves themselves decide what the numbers will be.


    I think it is important when we talk to the press that we emphasize why delisting is illegal, that it violates the ESA and the delisting criteria that were established in 1994. Arguing about many wolves are enough doesn’t get us anywhere, because the public hasn’t the scientific knowledge or sophistication to understand what underlies the numbers discussion. To them, it just looks as if all we want is more wolves. That’s not the issue. We want wolves that are distributed in functioning packs across the historical landscape, as required by the ESA.

  2. Virginia Avatar

    Robert – that is such an outstanding letter! About a week ago, there was an editorial in the Cody Enterprise criticizing the lawsuit being filed to re-list the wolf. I was wondering if you would consider sending your letter to the Cody Enterprise. It is time this community had the opportunity to read about the other side of this issue. Also, we just came back from a day in Lamar Valley watching wolves and all of the other wildlife in Yellowstone, including lots of buffalo calves. We are so lucky! There were at least 50 vehicles parked and about 100 people watching at the Soda Butte turnout where two of the Druids were on a kill. I only hope all of these people who are so enthusiastic about watching the Yellowstone wolves realize that ALL of the wolves and other wildlife need our protection.

  3. Lynne Stone Avatar
    Lynne Stone

    Robert – “… unfortunately, Franz and other enviros are also playing that game…”

    I am troubled by this statement of yours to a reporter about a fellow wolf advocate, who I have never met, but one who wrote a solid declaration for the delisting lawsuit.

    Recently I was forwarded an ALERT from a large WY group on Idaho’s 2008 wolf hunting season. This group supports delisting. This is not Franz’ group. The ALERT said to be sure to “Thank IDFG for having a mortality limit”.

    In other words, it’s apparently ok with at least one Wyoming conservation group that does have an office in eastern Idaho, to have 328 dead wolves in Idaho before the end of 2008, most of which will be shot by hunters who have bought a $11.75 tag.

    Hunting wolves at this time makes as much sense as trying to grow roses in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

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Brian Ertz