Feds delay decision on Idaho wolf killing

Predetermined outcome?

Brian Kelly, the new director of the USFWS office in Boise, states that Idaho’s Lolo Zone 10(j) wolf killing proposal has been put on hold so that the agency can conduct a NEPA review. This is good news but I’m betting that they will try to figure out how to get out of doing any review by issuing a Determination of NEPA Adequacy which says they don’t have to conduct any review under NEPA or issue a Categorical Exclusion which essentially does the same. At minimum this requires an Environmental Assessment and more appropriate would be an Environmental Impact Statement. Nonetheless, now that circumstances have changed, there should be more public review.

Whatever the route taken, it appears that Brian Kelly has already made his decision depending on how you read his statement on the matter.

“The intent is to make a decision so the state can do it at a time of year it is more effective to do it.”

Seems like the review is tainted from the beginning and that they are just taking steps to justify it should it be challenged in court. The outcome of the NEPA review is preordained.

Feds delay decision on Idaho wolf killing.
Associated Press



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  1. JimT Avatar

    You pretty much say it all, Ken. I suspect the CE would be the easiest way given its recent use, but on what basis this time?
    NEPA clearly applies. This would have to pass muster in DC, so time to rally the troops there.

  2. Maska Avatar

    Mr. Kelly, who authorized the first “lethal control” of a critically endangered Mexican gray wolf in 2003, during his tenure as recovery coordinator, is likely just returning to his roots. He came to the USFWS via USDA Wildlife Services (sic).

  3. JimT Avatar

    The more you pull back the curtain to see what is behind it, the more you see the common links…

  4. Ken Cole Avatar

    One other thing that should be said about the news that NEPA has to be followed here is that for them to choose any process other than an EIS they have to show that the project will not have any significant impacts and that the effects of the project are not controversial.


    First, the Lolo proposal is INTENDED TO HAVE SIGNIFICANT IMPACT. That is the whole point of the project.

    Second, the proposal is surrounded by controversy. The proposal itself questions whether it will even be effective at accomplishing its objective.

    They need to produce an EIS.

    1. WM Avatar


      If this gets kicked into an EIS it will truly have tail wagging the dog, so to speak. The EIS for wolf reintroduction was done in 1994. Flexibility in management of wolves was presumed and clearly stated. The 10(j) regulations were in fulfillment of that promise, and the regulations do have an assessment review feature, if I recall.

      Funny, but the EIS analysis on impacts to ungulate populations was done for a wolf population of 100 for Central ID (with a disproportionate belief they would eat more deer than has been the case). Now we are at, what, 835 wolves by conservative estimates, with closer to 1,000 being a more likely number? No controls on numbers (except livestock depredation) and distribution whatsoever in the form of unit management hunting harvests, now that they are back on the ESA.

      Yeah, let’s take a year or longer, and study this some more in the lengthy EIS process while wolves increase in numbers and take even more elk, defeating state wildlife agency management objectives and recovery efforts in a key area of the state, while ungulate populations decrease even more.

      One more misrepresentation and broken promise the state(s) will have to point to as they describe this reintroduction fiasco as it is currently playing out.

      I have long been a fan and supporter of thorough reviews of impacts under NEPA, and authored EIS’s.

      But, this agency control action does not rise to the level of a need for an EIS. It would be an obstructionist tail wagging the dog, if it happens.

  5. Valerie Bittner Avatar

    Maska et al.,

    Do you know how Ed Bangs’ decisions (who retains his role as NRM wolf recovery coordinator) jives with the decisions of Brian Kelly?

    It is my understanding from a voice mail message left by USFWS spokesperson Megan Laxalt that Bangs gives the final green lighting on all “control” actions. I might be mistaken so any input would be appreciated!

    1. JB Avatar


      My understanding is that Ed makes the call; but you should confirm that with someone at USFWS.

  6. Maska Avatar

    Valerie, I’m afraid I don’t have a good feeling for the inner workings of the wolf reintroduction in the Northern Rockies. Somebody from up that way will have to answer your question.

  7. Valerie Bittner Avatar


    Thanks for your response anyway. Perhaps Ken or Ralph could respond to this important inquiry??

  8. Valerie Bittner Avatar

    Greetings JB,

    Your speedy response was really appreciated.

    It is vital, I think, for readers of this web site to be able to keep abreast of the identities of the top string-pulling players as well as the scope of their de facto powers and legal obligations in the politically murky world of wolf politics with its lightning-speed shifts.

    In this regard do you happen to know who nixed (at least for the time being) Montana’s “conservation” hunts proposal? And, equally important, why? My supposition is that it would be Ed Bangs. Or possibly Robyn Thorsen?

    Since I strive for accuracy I will, of course, continue to seek confirmation.

    Thanks again.

    1. JB Avatar

      Hi Val:

      No idea. A while back Ralph posted the FWS’s response to Idaho’s questions as to why they should remain the wolf management designate. One point the FWS made is that they would not manage wolves to help the states meet ungulate population objectives; perhaps this is FWS’s way of putting pressure on the states to cooperate?

      I believe that conservation hunts could be legally justified under the ESA–assuming FWS could show a link between increasing wolf populations and decreases in support for wolves [not a popular view around here].

    2. Ken Cole Avatar

      I’m not sure what exactly is going on at the USFWS since Idaho bailed out. I’ve heard there have been big changes and that things are being handled at higher levels but I don’t know the details.

      I have also heard that Bud Fazio has been reassigned and is no longer Mexican Wolf program manager.

      I don’t know what all of this means. I don’t think its good though.

      1. Maska Avatar

        “I don’t think its good thought.” I agree. At the very least, Mr. Fazio has become a sort of “unperson,” like officials in the old Soviet Union who fell out of grace with the higher-ups. That’s too bad, as he always struck me (in the short time he was in the public eye) as an honorable fellow.

      2. Ken Cole Avatar

        Yeah, I met him at a couple of the Wolf Conferences at Chico and I had the same impression. He actually seemed to give a crap.

  9. Valerie Bittner Avatar

    JB, Ken,

    Thanks again.

    Ken, do you happen to know off hand who is in the direct chain of command above Bangs?

    Also given your extensive breadth and depth of knowledge I’m curious as to why you opine that “I don’t think its good though.”


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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