President Obama's regulatory freeze halts wolf delisting!!

It looks like the freeze of all unpublished Bush regulations stops the current run to delist the wolf-

Obama Rule Halts Wolf Delisting. Center for Biological Diversity. News Release

This is very happy news because we just learned that Idaho has some very nasty plans for the wolves if they are delisted — a quick kill off before a lawsuit can be filed.

Update: now the slower MS media are picking up the story.

– – – – – – – – – – –

For Immediate Release, January 21, 2009

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017

Obama Rule Halts Wolf Delisting

SILVER CITY, N.M.– President Barack Obama has issued a freeze on publication of federal regulations planned under the previous administration but not yet published in the Federal Register. This action, which will give the new administration a chance to review Bush-era policy decisions, will delay and possibly prevent the premature removal of gray wolves from the endangered species list in Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, and portions of Washington, Oregon, Utah, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

According to Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, the pause will afford President Obama and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar the opportunity to rethink the previous administration’s efforts to remove wolves from the endangered species list. “Rather than remove protections from wolves in a piecemeal fashion, in the isolated locations where they have finally begun to recover from past persecution,” Robinson said, ” the Obama administration should develop and implement a national gray-wolf recovery plan that will ensure the survival of these magnificent animals.”

Gray wolves are gone from over 95 percent of their historic range, including on millions of acres of national forests, national parks and Bureau of Land Management public lands whose ecological health has suffered in the absence of wolves.

“Gray wolves are the engine of evolution for natural ecosystems,” said Robinson..

In the northern Rocky Mountains, wolf numbers are too low and populations too fragmented to ensure long-term survival. For example, the Bush administration intended to delist wolves in Idaho and Montana even though those states house only 75 breeding pairs of wolves – far below the hundreds of breeding animals necessary to maintain population viability without debilitating genetic problems.

Even these 75 breeding pairs are not secure since the Idaho and Montana wolf-management plans allow for excessive killing of wolves, including a majority of the wolves in Idaho alone.

Two previous attempts to remove protections from the wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains were struck down by federal courts.

In the upper Midwest, the Bush administration intended to remove wolves from the endangered species list after its previous attempts were also judicially remanded. Here too, piecemeal delisting is inappropriate

Robinson concluded: “Wolves should not be removed from protection until they are secure and recovered in a larger and more viable portion of their range.”

The Fish and Wildlife Service and its predecessor agency were responsible for the extermination of wolves throughout much of the 20th century on behalf of the livestock industry. Gray wolves survived in small numbers in the upper Midwest and expanded under the protections of the 1973 Endangered Species Act. Wolves began recolonizing northern Montana and Idaho on their own in the 1980s, and numbers grew significantly after the 1995 and 1996 reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho.

Under an exception to the Act, Fish and Wildlife Service actions have resulted in the federal killing on behalf of the livestock industry of 931 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains and at least 1,951 wolves in the Great Lakes region from 1996 through 2008.



, , ,



  1. timz Avatar

    “a quick kill off before a lawsuit can be filed”
    Ralph, what did this plan entail?

  2. Ken Cole Avatar


    Like last year’s delisting happened there was a 30-day period between the time that the rule was published and when the lawsuit could be filed because the plaintiffs had to give a 30-day notice before they filed and couldn’t do that until the rule was actually filed. In this 30-day or longer window there would be no ESA protection for wolves.

  3. jerry b Avatar
    jerry b

    Ralph….can you reveal what plans Idaho had to kill wolves prior to a lawsuit being filed?

  4. Layton Avatar

    OK, I’ll call BS!!

    Another one of those “mysterious” plots that IMNSHO have their roots in overactive imaginations.

    “Put up or shut up” would seem to be the appropriate phrase.

  5. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I understand Idaho was planning an immediate implementation of their Lolo plan to kill a whole bunch of wolves in the upper Clearwater. This would have began in late February 2009

    Wildlife Services would also quickly shoot about 1/3 of the packs in Idaho under the ruse that they were chronically depredating packs.

    Then presumably (I assume, anyway) Judge Molloy would instate another injunction, but the deed would have been done

  6. Mike Avatar

    Elections have consequences.


  7. jdubya Avatar

    Looks like this will be a put up or shut up for Salazar while he is still in the salad days of the new administration. Heads or tails, which way will he go? Should we take wagers?

  8. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    My guess is he will move toward delisting, but with more protections from abusive state management.

    What needs to be done now is to get rid of the 10j rule that allows Wildlife Services to go around killing 15 wolves for every stray lamb or calf they deem to have been killed by a wolf.

    Or just as good, eliminate Wildlife Service’s budget for aerial activities.

  9. timz Avatar

    Anyone know where the legal challenge to 10j stands?

  10. Ken Cole Avatar

    Layton, it’s pretty clear that the ultimate goal of IDFG is to reduce the population to just 500 wolves statewide. This won’t be stated publicly but it is apparent that they want to do this either through harvest or through Wildlife Services.

    The Clearwater plan to kill wolves, based on a very small and inconclusive sample size, is still being talked about as well.

    I presume that you support this.

  11. Peg Avatar

    Not only did the Obama administration put a freeze on the publication of the rule – both the House & Senate are taking action as reported by Greenwire late last week (1/15/09). “House Natural Resources Chairman Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) introduced a resolution today that would overturn the controversial ESA regulations. The resolution would employ the little-used Congressional Review Act, which gives lawmakers some of the fastest and most aggressive options to roll back rules. Under the act, Congress can throw back recent regulations with a simple majority vote.”

  12. Layton Avatar


    Yes, I will support a reduction in the number of wolves here in my state — BUT to put out something purely from the “rumor mill” and present it as fact is something that I think is completely ridiculous, and as long as words like “I understand”, “presumably”, and “I assume” are part of the message — weeeellll, put it in the BS bucked where it belongs.

    Around here, it is completely OK to come up with ANY cockamamie, BS, hallucinogenically concocted scheme that will put anybody that doesn’t share the “wolves are God’s dogs” mentality in a bad light. BUT, heaven help anyone that says anything contrary without scientifically based, peer reviewed, chapter and verse verified and cross referenced, and mother in law approved information. Even then it will be cited as another conspiracy attempt by the Wildlife Services Black Helicopter bunch to wipe the entire population of these critters from the earth!!

    Facts and terms that were agreed to in the past are cheerfully ignored or denied and anything that would harm a single hair on one of Canis’ paws is viewed as a diabolical scheme constituting some sort of another rape of Mother Nature.

    I guess I’m not sure what the “Clearwater Plan” is. If it is the proposal that F&G advanced (and it got shot down by the feds) to take out some of the predators in that area to see if they could get elk calf recruitment back up to a level that would sustain the herd, yes, I’m for that too.

    I think they are professionals at what they do and I KNOW the the elk numbers in those units are sadly down. Of course, that’s just “anecdotal” so it probably doesn’t count.

    I also don’t believe that Idaho F&G is stupid enough to do a big wolf kill in the limelight that will be there if this delisting attempt ever manages to outlast the money that seems to be buying judges in the area.

  13. timz Avatar

    “if this delisting attempt ever manages to outlast the money that seems to be buying judges in the area.”

    So mister facts, figures and hater of rumor and inuendo, do you have some sort of proof that judges are being bought?

  14. Jay Avatar

    I believe IDFG has the option of implementing a predator management plan in the Lolo elk zone, whether it be under 10(j) or as a delisted species. So in this case, I presume they will go forth regardless of the decision to delay the delisting. That may change if something comes of the lawsuit challenging the new 10(j).

    “Buying judges”, Layton? You criticize some folks on here for making assumptions, but yet you fling them with the best of them. Judges–particularly at that level–have to judge based on case merit, and it seems pretty apparent Molloy’s expert opinion was that the Feds would have lost had they chosen to fight it out in court. Instead they (Feds) asked the delisting to be remanded, which to me indicates they also felt they were going to lose and didn’t want to waste their time court. So where you say things like “BUT, heaven help anyone that says anything contrary without scientifically based, peer reviewed, chapter and verse verified and cross referenced, and mother in law approved information”, you commit a bit of hypocracy yourself when, if the judge doesn’t rule the way you want, he’s “bought”.

  15. Jay Avatar

    You beat me to it Timz…

  16. Salle Avatar

    I don’t think that the 10(j) rule has actually been challenged in court since it was a compromise from the start. It should be challenged though. I was thinking about that today and I suspect that much of the pseudo management techniques would not have come about had the standard, unadulterated ESA specifics been implemented as for any other specie.

    I don’t care how unhappy these ESA opponents are, the facts of nature and the natural order of life in the biosphere should be the basis of the rationale used to protect species that are in danger as the Act implies. If human activities are disrupting the commons, they need to stop it. The 10(j) rule isn’t working properly and needs to be done away with legally.

  17. Layton Avatar

    Look at Malloy’s record on “green” issues – if you don’t already know it – and then do a little research on what the folks around Butte think of his leanings.

    The case was shopped around to get a Judge with a favorable record toward the decision that the group(s) with the money wanted — to deny that is flat foolish.

    Maybe not literally “bought” but I’ll bet which way his political leanings are and where campaign contributions come from (or is he a “lifer”?)— and I don’t live there.

    Besides that, I rest my case — I say something that isn’t peer reviewed and you folks are on me like a diaper!! Where’s the outrage for the rumors up above??

  18. Ken Cole Avatar


    I’ll add though that Wildlife Services has limited funds to accomplish this plan.

    I just got an update from IDFG stating that:

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife on January 14, 2009, announced a new rule to remove wolves in the Northern Rockies from the endangered species list.

    Officials expect the rule to be published in the Federal Register January 27, and it would take effect 30 days later, unless blocked by the new Obama administration. The rule would include wolves in Idaho and Montana; wolves in Wyoming would remain on the endangered species list.

    This makes the explanation that I made earlier incorrect. The new rule, if it is published, would go into effect 30 days afterwards. The plaintiffs have to give 60 days notice of their intent to sue. That leaves a minimum of 30 days without ESA protection for wolves.

    As far as the Lolo elk zone plan, the numbers that IDFG has presented don’t really back up their claim that wolves are behind the declines of elk there. I’m not going to get into this again with Layton but there is no information about the age of the elk killed and there is really no measure of elk habitat quality. We know that elk have been declining there since before the wolf reintroductions and we know that elk habitat quality has declined there as well. Removing wolves may have temporary increases but that does not address the underlying issue of habitat quality.

    Here is the IDFG press release about the elk mortality study.
    Here is the actualElk Survival Research Update
    When I get the time I plan on making a separate post about this. Take particular notice of what is left out of the update. Definitions of their terms like “very high”, actual sample sizes and how that relates to statistical sampling, as well as comparisons between the Sawtooth and Lolo zones where they say wolf density is “very high” but the survival is above or below objectives. What is the difference between these two zones that might explain the differences? Could it be habitat quality? How old were the elk killed by wolves? Was this compensatory or additive mortality? This update doesn’t make any of these judgements.

  19. Maska Avatar


    Judge Malloy is a United States District Judge. All federal district judges are appointed for life. They do not stand for election.

  20. John Denton Avatar
    John Denton

    Elk are naturally prolific but when thinning occurs it should be by elimination of the young, old, and weak, not mature bulls or breeding cows. I’m guessing that poaching in Idaho far outstrips wolf predation. Sell your gun, get a camcorder.

  21. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    If the case had been brought in the Federal District of Washington D.C., the plaintiffs could maybe be said to be forum shopping.

    However, the headquarters of the USFWS Rocky Mountain wolf program is in Helena, Montana. So how could filing a case in the Montana federal district be judge or forum shopping?

  22. Barb Avatar

    If the “wolf” were viewed by most as “just another animal” under Endangered Species protection, it would make sense to some day remove it’s protections.

    But removing its protections EVER is a scary thought in light of its unfair and persecuted history. I believe the wolf needs permanent protection — yes, permanent.

  23. Layton Avatar

    “But removing its protections EVER is a scary thought in light of its unfair and persecuted history. I believe the wolf needs permanent protection — yes, permanent.”

    Yep Barb, I really think you do believe that, as do about 90% of the people on this blog — and therein lies the problem!!

  24. Salle Avatar

    Perhaps if the wolf were listed like other animals it would also be a topic in the mainstream education thus reducing the impact of the mythologies that persist to this day. It seems that wolves are exclusive in that way. The one animal that receives the most vehement loathing based on fear and story-telling that is less than true.

    Don’t people wonder why the Native Americans never had any problems with all these species? And why it is that Euro-Americans do?

    It isn’t an argument based on biology, it’s a social/political argument, period.

  25. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I am curious as to what would be your response to Ralph’s last post.

  26. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Well, it looks as if the Fed’s are going to rescind the proposed de-listing for the time being again…until such time as they can re-evaluate the program..

  27. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    John Denton

    “Sell your gun, get a camcorder.”
    Agreed, there’s longer lasting entertainment to be had in that pursuit.

  28. JB Avatar

    Back to the substantive issues…

    Ralph said: “What needs to be done now is to get rid of the 10j rule that allows Wildlife Services to go around killing 15 wolves for every stray lamb or calf they deem to have been killed by a wolf…Or just as good, eliminate Wildlife Service’s budget for aerial activities.”

    Agreed. But I’m curious as to how you think this might happen? My guess is (if wolves are on their radar at all) the new administration will be consulting with their experts–through the chain of command–as to what should be done. In this case, the experts are FWS and APHIS-WS, the very people responsible for the 10j rule and the aerial killing of wolves. And lets not forget that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior are both centrist Dems.

  29. Salle Avatar

    “And lets not forget that the Secretaries of Agriculture and Interior are both centrist Dems.”

    And they are also proponents of agri-business, large scale ranching and public grazing…

    I would advise the new administration to start talking to the grassroots entities about it and listen to what they have to impart.

  30. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins

    If I recall correctly, there’s a standing lawsuit against the latest 10j rule. Does anyone know its status?


  31. outsider Avatar

    Jeff E, there are I beleive 43 distric courts in the 9th circuit, so this case could have been tried anywhere in the 9th circuit. Its not uncome for a plantif to “shop” judges, based on their pervious rullings. The fact that it was done in the same place as the headquarters of the USFWS Rocky Mountain wolf program is merely coincidental.

  32. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    It is amazing how much energy and resources, even heart and soul, is always put into “how can we destroy something” instead of „how can we protect something.“ Oh, I forgot, the preferred term for “to destroy something” is “to manage” (sounds more business like and “modern” – innocent? – maybe). One day, I´d like to see only a fraction of this energy and resources now invested for “destruction” re-directed to “protection”. I have yet to see that!
    You are always able to raise money (and volunteers) for a war against predators or endless lawsuits pro or con something, but never try to raise sponsors (fianancial and administrative) for a highway wildlife overpass or even something small like a radio collar…….

  33. Salle Avatar


    I agree with your sentiment on the apparent focus on the masking terms and actual destruction but in some methods where there is greater danger to protecting than assisting with it ~ Like radio collars. I would claim that they are/were appropriate for research in the early years following reintroduction, however, they have also become tracking devices for killing them whether by authorized personnel or not. There are more wolves killed with the assistance of radio collars than there are of wolves studied for research purposes only-where the wolf and its pack members do not experience “management”.

  34. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Yes Salle, I agree about the radio collars. They served only as an example. We experienced difficulties in financing a collar here in Germany recently where we do not (yet) have the problem that radio collars more or less serve as a “target marker”. Personally I also do not like them, be it on a coyote, a wolf or a bear. I´m also sure that in the meantime not much new info can be gained from the data. But we here know virtually nothing about the nightly movements of our wolves around our villages.

  35. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I don’t know about the 10j lawsuit except that it is before Judge Molloy.
    – – –
    Outsider, you can move your case before a judge you like to some degree. However, within a U.S. Circuit, such as the 9th, you cannot take it to any federal district court you like.

    The case had to go to the federal judge in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming. The plaintiffs would have crazy to take it to Wyoming (which is, by the way in the 10th Circuit). The judges in Montana and Idaho are, if you get the right one, pretty favorable to conservation matters. You could draw the “wrong” judge, however, (there is more than one federal judge in these states). This happened in Idaho with the grizzly bear delisting lawsuit.

    There is no way the plaintiffs could take their case before a judge in, let’s suppose, San Francisco.

  36. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Most of the federal judges have been nominated by Republican Presidents — Reagan, or Bush I or II.

    Now with Obama and a Democratic majority in the Senate there should be a gradual influx of better and better judges from the standpoint of conservation.

  37. JimT Avatar

    I think Layton has left the building…VBG…

    Ralph I will check with a few folks about the 10j lawsuit status and see who has it..if it is actively filed..and where it is…

    I think if Layton checks the current political biases of most of the Federal judges, he will find them heavy on the conservative end of things since alot of the vacancies since Reagan’s “court packing” strategy were filled by politically palatable jurists to the Republicans.

    Shopping judges per se is unethical. However, being smart about where you potentially file your case..which districts are friendly or at least just smart lawyering. Done by both sides and will continue. The thing from the enviro side of things..there are lot fewer friendly or neutral districts than there used to be. Even the 9th these days comes out with some squirrely my humbly biased opinion…LOL.

    At least Brimmer retired…

  38. JimT Avatar

    Ralph, you have more info on 10j than I do, so do you know who filed it? Was it Earthjustice and Honald?

    The damage done to the district courts will take several years to “correct’ as the openings are simply not there as they were under Regan. Plus, even under Clinton for 8 years, there was a marked reluctance to politicize the process in an attempt to restore balance; Clinton never was a “green” President, or even “liberal” to any great degree. Just saw the list that Salazar “gave” to Udall for a DC appointment…disappointing. Seems that rewarding loyalists is a disease afflicting both sides of the aisle to the detriment of the courts.

    Ralph, did you get the emails on Salazar’s appointments I sent you? I didn’t know where to post it on this blog.

  39. Eric T Avatar
    Eric T

    There are several issues in the Lolo zone. The encroaching wolves are the straw that broke the elks’ back, i.e. wolves were last to the party, first to leave.

  40. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    Actually Eric the wolves started the party, then got booted out by a rabble of gatecrashers and now thanks to a few helpful neighbours are getting their party back under control.

  41. Layton Avatar


    You asked:

    I am curious as to what would be your response to Ralph’s last post.”

    I’m going to assume that you are referring to this from Ralph.

    “However, the headquarters of the USFWS Rocky Mountain wolf program is in Helena, Montana. So how could filing a case in the Montana federal district be judge or forum shopping?”

    I don’t think I NEED to answer it, I think a couple of quotes from following posts answered it pretty well. Actually, I think one of them is from Ralph.

    “Outsider, you can move your case before a judge you like to some degree.”

    “Shopping judges per se is unethical. However, being smart about where you potentially file your case..which districts are friendly or at least just smart lawyering”

    People jumped all over me for talking about “judge shopping” and then tried to justify it as being OK — I guess there is some kind of logic there, but it escapes me at the moment. Seems like it’s OK if you’re on the “wolfie” side.

  42. Layton Avatar

    Jim T,

    “I think Layton has left the building…VBG…”

    Nope, just went out to find some sunshine yesterday. By the way, I’m usually pretty much “up” on the acronyms, but “VBG” is a new one — at least to me — would you enlighten me??

  43. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    All groups engage in smart lawyering, unless they don’t know anything about the U.S. judicial system.

    Your original comments seemed to show you thought a lawsuit could be filed anywhere at all, and so a friendly judge could be found regardless and with no limits.

  44. Heather Avatar

    layton its time for you to give up and give in with the majority here…. its a lost cause for you.

  45. Layton Avatar


    ‘Scuse me?? Never, not in this lifetime or any other!!

    How about you just convince this “majority” you talk about to give up and Join ME??? 8)

  46. John d. Avatar
    John d.

    You have to be told?


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan