Wolf Politics and the Endangered Species 'End Run'

This article is highly significant now, although it appears an end run might pass the Senate tonight-

Wolf Politics and the Endangered Species ‘End Run’. by Virginia Morell on 9 December 2010, 5:16 PM. ScienceInsider.



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  1. william huard Avatar
    william huard

    What makes you think an end run could happen as early as tonight? How?

    1. bob Avatar

      Seems the wolf groups think lawyers and judges are just fine yet legislations is bad. If Defender of large predators had just played by rules there would be no need for the end run. We had 1000 of meeting and comment periods the rules for the game were set. The population numbers were set for state management yet the wolf groups show it true color of never letting wolves off the list.

      1. Ken Cole Avatar

        You need to read more of this blog before you make assertions like this. There was no “deal” made by the groups. Besides, the law is the only standard not some backroom “deal”.

      2. JB Avatar


        You appear to be “parroting” the rhetoric of some of the anti-wolf groups on this issue. Unfortunately, there is a substantial amount of mis-information going around concerning wolves, which has lead some folks to believe that a “deal” was struck. I have yet to see any evidence of a deal. The 1994 environmental impact statement that preceded wolves reintroduction in the region listed 10 breeding pairs or 100 wolves for 3 consecutive years as ONE of the minimum criteria for delisting. This EIS seems to be the source of the confusion. Importantly, an environmental impact statement is not a “deal” or a legal contract; rather, it is a scientific estimate of the impacts that are likely to occur as a result of a proposed action. The EIS reflects scientific uncertainty associated with making such predictions; indeed, there were a number of things the EIS got wrong.

        Regardless, the “rules of the game” were indeed changed subsequent to the reintroduction, as court decisions established precedent, scientists questioned whether the wolf population was viable, and others sought to understand what constitutes “recovery” under the ESA. These questions–and their answers–are far more complicated than your post implies. By the way, my contacts at Defenders have indicated to me that they will support the delisting of wolves in the western Great Lakes DPS.

      3. WM Avatar


        ++The EIS reflects scientific uncertainty associated with making such predictions; indeed, there were a number of things the EIS got wrong. ++

        Finally acknowledgement that FWS did a less than adequate job on the EIS.

        ++ ….my contacts at Defenders have indicated to me that they will support the delisting of wolves in the western Great Lakes DPS.++

        What about HSUS (Humane Society)? Will they support Great Lakes wolf delisting, as you suggest Defenders might? Those were the folks leading the charge to keep GL wolves listed in round after round of litigation, and for reasons which have little to do with meeting ESA obligations. They just didn’t want wolves off the list for pure “animal protection” reasons. They were also the first to play the DPS card – the issue which currently has the NRM delisting wrapped around the axle. And, in my opinion, HSUS used the ESA for purposes well outside its intended scope, and will continue to do so as long as the ESA provides such an avenue.

      4. JB Avatar


        I didn’t say that FWS did an inadequate job on the EIS; in fact, I think they did a pretty good job with the information they had available to them at the time.

        “What about HSUS (Humane Society)?”

        When I noted that my contacts at Defenders indicated that would support delisting of the Great Lakes DPS, I was responding to Bob’s assertion that “wolf groups” intend to keep wolves on the list indefinitely. His post implies that wildlife advocates intend to hold up delisting as long as possible, and this simply is not so. HSUS are not wildlife advocates but animal rights activists–very different missions and memberships.

      5. WM Avatar


        OK, if you won’t agree FWS didn’t do an adequate job on the EIS, do you have an explanation for the fact that the term “best available science and commercial data” does not appear anywhere in the body of the document, and there is little discussion of the concept except in Appendix 9 which speaks of “viable wolf population” in the context of the “recovery plan?” Also, where is the discussion of what happens if one of the states does not go forward with an acceptable plan (institutional deficiency), while the others have approved ones? And how does the EIS address what functionally happens when the minimum goal of 300 is vastly exceeded, as it has been, with the population pushing 2,000 and the population continues to grow unfettered while litigation keeps them on the list?

        See the big problem is this EIS patently failed to look at the projected impacts of the federal agency action over time – not just scientific, but political, economic and social [legal as well], which is what EIS’s are supposed to do. These analyses are integral to final alternative development, selection, and mitigation of the impacts. There is simply no meaningful discussion of projected – but no doubt anticipated – impacts over time. No discussion of density implications on ungulate herds, except to say this “non-essential experimental population” would be managed with flexibility for livestock and ungulate impacts, whatever that means. Look at Appendix 16 – “Advantages of a Nonessential Experimental Population. Clearly all three states believe the threshold has been exceeded substantially AND apparently the genetic connectivity, because of the larger numbers and expandedd range, is not now as significant a concern it once was in the first litigation (and I bet Judge Molloy will agree if and when he sees the NRM case again, in light of the new analysis of old data from VonHoldt).

        There is no real discussion of a planning horizon except – five years pody delisting. An EIS is supposed to deal with this. It is , by definition, a planning document.

        There is one key statement from the EIS that escapes some:

        ++The FWS recognized that regulated public harvest is a valuable wildlife management tool. Public harvest can be one of the most efficient, inexpensive, and locally acceptable methods of managing wolf populations and minimizing wolf-human conflicts once wolf populations are recovered and delisted.[pdf page 48/414] ++


        HSUS – they are indeed an animal rights organization, but they also fall into the broad bucket as a “wolf group” who want to keep them on the list for as long as possible, maybe forever. In that sense it is a distinction without a significant difference as long as wolves are listed, especially when they put their name on a legal complaint filed in federal court. And, they are using the ESA to advance their own objectives under the guise of the act’s protection. GL wolves are their poster child, as are wolves in general. http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2009/09/wolf_hunt_090209.html

        ++…very different groups and different memberships.++

        I’ll say maybe not. My wife has, in the past, belonged to Defenders and HSUS simultaneously (also Blue Ocean). We have friends who have had the same crossover affilations. Unless you have the data to support that wildlife groups and animal activist group memberships are mutually exclusive, you might want to back off that statement, because it is likely not accurate.

        And then there is the Center for Biogical Diversity which is pushing for no delistings whatsoever until there is recovery across the nation. This butts up against Salazar’s promise yesterday to have GL wolves off the list by year end in 2011.

      6. JB Avatar


        I’m still not sure what your beef is with the EIS? You seem to expect the FWS to be omniscient with respect to future court cases, precedents and science? The SPR issue, which was the major issue in the first delisting attempts, wasn’t even on the radar for agencies until 2000 (flat-tailed horned lizard case). This issue had nothing to do with the best available science, but rather, the plain meaning of the term “significant”. I think FWS’s fundamental mistake with the EIS was that they believed (probably with legal consult) that they had more discretion then the federal courts have shown them.

        – – – – –

        Re: HSUS

        Yes, they oppose delisting wolves. That doesn’t make them a wildlife advocacy organization anymore than supporting delisting makes the NRA a hunting organization. If you don’t think the distinction is relevant, it is your prerogative; but remember, Defenders not only supported lethal removal of wolves that were involved in depredations, they financially reimbursed ranchers for those depredations. Can you imagine HSUS taking either of those positions?

      7. JimT Avatar


        Is it your DOW contact’s opinion that support for delisting the Great Lakes is based on a reading that the area is less likely to push the envelope on getting rid of more wolves like Idaho and Montana and Wyoming have done in their reactions? Is it a case of trusting the folks there to be reasonable?

      8. JB Avatar


        To be frank, any response I give would be blind speculation. Rather than speculate, I would simply note that my conversations suggest that they think the WGL population is recovered and the plans set forth by the states are reasonable.

    2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

      Ken and I were sent a copy with a plea from anti-wolf groups to kill the Baucus bill because it wasn’t anti-wolf enough.

      1. JB Avatar


        Were they objecting to the minimum population requirements? I see that in the Baucus-Tester bill these were set from the 2008 plan.

      2. JimT Avatar

        I have seen the same thing, Ralph. And WM wants the pro wolf crowd to give in on this effort. Amazing. What better indication you can get about what a compromise will be greeted with than the RMEF letter?

  2. Mike Koeppen Avatar

    As I mentioned on another portion of this site, I am unclear what the “minimum thresholds” are under the Testor-Baucus Bill. What do the minimums mean in real numbers of wolves? To me, that is the important part, as it appears Idaho will work to reduce the wolf population to that minimum.


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.

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