Wolf Delisting Court Hearing: Sense and Nonsense

Louisa Willcox of NRDC writes about the Delisting Hearing

Louisa Wilcox, of NRDC, has written a great piece about the hearing and how the arguments by the government were disjointed and more about the politics than the law. She raises some good points and gives more information about the judge’s questions of the government’s conflicting arguments.

“Is it rational for the states to manage wolves when their plans are not legally binding or enforceable? When their primary defense is a “trust us” argument? Was not the failure of the states to recover wolves a major reason that wolves got listed in the first place? Given the states’ track record, what rational person would be satisfied with a “trust us” defense?”

I find particularly interesting the conflict between classifying Wyoming’s population as an experimental, non-essential population while the government is arguing that they are mingling with wolves from other states and populations. The 10(j) rule cannot be used in this way because it only allows populations that are not connected to other populations to be given this status. While wolf advocates are arguing that the three populations don’t have enough connectivity it cannot be said that Wyoming wolves are not interacting with wolves in southwest Montana and eastern Idaho since they are considered one metapopulation. It’s an arbitrary decision to delist a portion of a single population while the population in Wyoming is still listed.

Reading from the statute, Molloy said “10(j) only applies when populations are separated from other populations… It seems like you can’t designate wolves as a 10(j) population in Wyoming, because they’re mingling with non-protected wolves. Don’t they stop being experimental/non-essential when they co-mingle with other non-protected populations? “

That argument aside, there are plenty of other inconsistencies in the government’s arguments.

Wolf Delisting Court Hearing: Sense and Nonsense
Louisa Willcox’s Blog | Switchboard, from NRDC


  1. TripleJ Avatar

    I think we all share Louisa’s frustration with the lack of government direction so clearly evidenced by this hearing. She states “it is clear that the government has no good road map of how to get a recovery/delisting plan that works, includes trigger mechanisms to prompt responsive actions if things go wrong.” Everywhere we look today, especially in the gulf oil disaster and with agencies like the MMS, the individuals supposedly “leading” have been asleep at the helm. It doesn’t give one much hope. We must keep our voices heard if we want to continue to protect wildlife and wilderness.

  2. Jon Way Avatar

    It is a shame that so many people and agencies are reactive instead of pro-active. If more were pro-active we wouldn’t be going 2 steps backwards with every one step forward. Wolf delisting certainly included here.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Our JB has a paper coming out in BioScience that certainly should have been before the judge were it available at the time. It is “A Role for the Social Sciences in Endangered Species Listing Determinations: The Case of Gray Wolves in the Northern Rockies.”

    Hopefully it will be widely read when published.

    1. JB Avatar

      Thanks for the plug, Ralph. I will post a link once we’ve made it through final edits.

    2. Angela Avatar

      wow, I look forward to reading that! Congrats on the publication JB; BioScience is a highly respected journal.

  4. Cody Coyote Avatar
    Cody Coyote

    I still have to ask about an item I read concerning Molloy’s wolf hearing. It was reported that Molloy instructed both sides’ attorneys to answer five distinct questions to his satisfaction.

    What were those five questions, and the responses , roughly ?


    By the way , Ralph , there may be some hope for JB’s paper to have some bearing. I keep hearing whispers that both Judge Molloy and Judge Johnson in Cheyenne are looking outside and around for expertise to help them develop their opinions. They may be cross-coupling the two cases, which are really anode and cathode of the same wolf issue, Wyoming’s deficient state wolf management plan. Molloy’s hearing was not a court proceeding or a bench trial summary judgment thing…it was an Administrative Procedure hearing, . I’m not up to speed on the case my own County Attorney pled before Johnson clear last January, but that seems to be a starch collar and oxfords lawsuit , if tangential and narrow.

  5. Virginia Avatar

    Can anyone explain to me what the next step is in this process? It sounds to me as though the government is using their usual incompetent attorneys to argue this issue.

  6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
    Robert Hoskins


    I don’t think the government attorneys are necessarily incompetent. You can only do so much with a bad case.


  7. Virginia Avatar

    Robert – do you remember what happened to the government’s case against Ted Stevens, the fine senator from Alaska? You are right that you can only do so much with a bad case, but in some cases, it is pretty obvious that they send the most incompetent possible in order to have the case thrown out.

  8. Petticoat Rebellion Avatar
    Petticoat Rebellion

    There is something just so inherently wrong when USFWS personnel, who are supposed to be competent in applying the ESA appropriately, manipulate the interpretation of those laws to appease local politicians. They’re being paid to protect and recover species under the guidance of the ESA…NOT make nice with politicians that would rather see wolves or other species eradicated.

    The Rocky Mountain Region FWS Ecological Services Program needs a thorough house cleaning and replacement with personnel who will do the job they have been hired to do…Protection of listed species under the ESA and expedient listing of species in dire need of protection! Thta’s the mission plain and simple…if these folks had been doing their job right in the first place this lawsuit would be a null issue.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole