Rift splits groups fighting to keep wolves on species list

We Won ! … Let’s Settle ?!?

“Among politicians and businessmen, *Pragmatism* is the current term for “To hell with our children.””
~ Edward Abbey

You win some, you lose some … but when a coalition of wolf advocates were successful in demonstrating that federal efforts to delist wolves were not based on science, i.e. unlawful, and won an injunction in federal court putting Northern Rocky Mountain wolves back on the Endangered Species List, the effort wasn’t over – not by a long shot.

Threat of political intervention, legislative delisting, hangs over this question thick – and it’s this pressure, or more appropriately wolf advocates’ response to it, that is being tested now.

Earthjustice has stepped down from representing wolf-advocates as Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Wildlands Network and Hells Canyon Preservation Council look to find cover from their own shadow :

Rift splits groups fighting to keep wolves on species listGreat Falls Tribune

The Alliance, Western Watersheds Project and Friends of the Clearwater refused to settle, Garrity told the Tribune Thursday.

“I believe these other groups will ask Judge Molloy for stay of his ruling which put wolves back on the Endangered Species List. This would mean that wolves could then be shot on sight and the states could have a hunting season on wolves before the wolf population is fully recovered,” Garrity said. “We are sticking to our original request that wolf management should be based on science and the law, not politics.”



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  1. Tom Page Avatar
    Tom Page

    Writing about the political travails of wolves in the Northern Rockies is often a foolish exercise, but sometimes I can’t help myself…

    If wolves come off the ESA via congressional action (likely), then the idea that the plaintiffs “won” will be inaccurate. This would be a much worse result than settling the case and handing control back to the States of Idaho and Montana. As has been noted by others in recent weeks, it would set a terrible precedent for endangered species management, and it would leave the state programs without any meaningful oversight.

    This is exactly the reason why many of us ‘corporate sellouts’ in the conservation world opposed the lawsuit in the first place.

    To use a well-worn but appropriate aphorism: don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Get wolves back under state management and go from there. The mishandling of this issue by certain parts of the conservation community has poisoned future deal-making for the foreseeable future and I, for one, am not really happy about that.

    I believe it will take 25-30 years (one full generation of kids growing up with wolves in the woods) of state wolf management before we have reasonable policies in place, and the beginnings of a cultural shift that might accommodate wolves across greater parts of the region. We can’t even start if they stay on the ESA.

    1. Brian Ertz Avatar

      the question lies, in large part, in whether groups are willing to be implicitly involved in the politicization of the administration of the ESA by not enforcing it (i.e. no challenging a politicized delisting rule) up front.

      it is, IMO, inaccurate to suggest that allowing state management via an unlawful rule, even in the context of settlement, is avoiding the “bad precedent” of legislative delisting as you suggest. Instead, it just sets about a different “bad precedent” altogether — one that establishes a politically motivated pragmatism, albeit just as politicized as the alternative, as the legitimate course in the public’s involvement in administering the act. That’s NOT acceptable either, and although it may (though it MAY NOT either) avoid the explicit consequence of the political pressure associated with a genuinely scientific/lawful administration of the act — it DOES NOT avoid the consequence of political pressure undercutting its just administration. All it does is make us complicit in the act – party to the politicization.

      While that may make us feel better about the outcome (we hope by doing so we get to avoid the conjecture of our worse fear, and we get to play a part), we also find – particularly in this case where a federal judge has already interpreted law in an advantageous way to wolves (saying nothing of the political resiliency of the decision) – that by not standing behind what is already decided in court — we would have, and may still, lose that resiliency that already exists.

      if the fear of future backlash against a protection of law prevents us from exercising it in the first place — then it is inaccurate to suggest that we have conserved a protection of law by refusing to subject it to potential assault.

      It’s already lost.

    2. william huard Avatar
      william huard

      “Get wolves back under state management and go from there” After the way Idaho and Montana has behaved they have proven that they do not deserve to manage wolf populations. They have acted like spoiled teenagers! It has been political from the very beginning, and after a rancher politician tries to undermine the ESA and “fear” these groups into a compromise, I’ m with WWP- fight these bastards, and if the Democrats allow a legislative solution they will pay a price. Fear is not a reason to give up on your principles

      1. Tom Page Avatar
        Tom Page

        Montana had a pretty reasonable plan in place for ’09. Most of the MT politicians got up in arms and started behaving badly after wolves went back on the list, not when they had state control.

        Of course it’s political from the very beginning. People who argue about science-based plans are spitting into the wind. We had a very good political solution (and lots of wolves on the ground – more than anyone expected, let’s be honest) in 09, with state control and fair chase hunts. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but everyone in rural Idaho took a big deep breath and stopped shouting for awhile.

        Brian – you and I both work in conservation in a very conservative state. I can’t think of one law that’s enforced as written – it’s usually a judgment call on the part of land, water and wildlife management agencies. I’d love to see water diversions properly managed, but I’m not naive enough to believe they will be anytime soon. The reasons, as always, are politics and power. To expect that wolves will be managed to the letter-of-the-law under the ESA is futile in the current cultural climate of rural Idaho, and lawsuits that create these expectations do more harm than good.

        William – If I were willing to give up on my principles, I wouldn’t be working on conservation in rural Idaho. As Brian can probably confirm, it’s not fun to go into local meetings and speak for water in rivers or wolves on the land. To suggest that my opinion on this issue is based on fear is so far off the mark it’s (almost) not worth replying.

      2. Brian Ertz Avatar


        I agree with a lot of what you are saying – the politics isn’t there to believe that state and locals are going to enforce the letter of the law – I’m sure you’re aware that this is what we deal with day to day, especially in rural Idaho.

        The real problem that exists is that Idaho has no levers of accountability by which to enforce some reasonable baseline … Once you let go to the state and delist, re-initiating any meaningful legal oversight/accountability is insurmountably more difficult than insisting on enforceable assurances at the outset, as a condition of relinquishing federal/public oversight of administration. Let’s not forget, there is no meaningful mechanism by which the public has a right at enforceable oversight at the state level … in this state, and perhaps to a lesser degree in Montana, that means that the public is letting loose the management of wolves to a corrupt, regressive political regime – a closed political system.

        I don’t think anyone is principally opposed to granting the states management authority, with appropriate – scientifically informed sidelines – even giving them ample ‘wiggle-room’ within which to properly manage wolves. What I cannot support is a blank check – and that’s exactly what they have always demanded and what this settlement essentially constitutes — a fold — that’s not good for wolves and it’s not good for the ESA.

  2. Salle Avatar

    These groups have had their noses rubbed in the pile of sh*t every time they compromise and this, too, will surely come back to bite them hard on the hindside. I am truly upset with this settlement action.

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Brian Ertz