A recent federal court decision regarding wolves sent ripples across the country and, perhaps, a warning shot across Northern Rocky Mountain and Great Lakes states, as well.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White in Northern California reversed a Trump administration decision to strip Endangered Species protection for gray wolves in many parts of the country.
In 2020, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service took gray wolves off the list of endangered species and gave control of wolves to the states. In his ruling, White challenged the rationale for the agency’s decision, saying the agency didn’t rely on the best available science or to address threats to wolves outside of their main populations. “The Service failed to adequately consider the threats to wolves outside of the core populations in the Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains in delisting the entire species,” the judge wrote, as reported in the Washington Post.
While Montana, Idaho and Wyoming, plus several Great Lakes states, were not part of this suit, it seems evident that some… shall we say aggressive?… approaches to wolf management likely had some influence in the case.
States that will feel the impact from the decision likely include Pacific Coast states where wolves have expanding in recent years.
At about the same time as the court decision, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wrote an op-ed piece for USA Today calling attention to Montana where about 20 wolves that range both in and out of Yellowstone National Park were killed in hunting districts where wolf harvest was previously subject to low quotas. She wrote, “We are alarmed by recent reports from Montana.”
She went on to say, “Because of the gray wolf’s recovery, individual states are responsible for its welfare and sustaining that recovery. Nevertheless, we will reinstate federal protections under the ESA for the northern Rocky Mountains’ gray wolf, if necessary.”
Haaland said that the Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating whether a re-listing of the Northern Rocky Mountain’s gray wolf under the endangered species act is necessary.
She specifically calls attention to recent laws in some western states that promote “precipitous reductions in wolf populations” allowing baiting, snaring, night hunting, etc., “the same kind of practices that nearly wiped out wolves during the last century.”
Secretary Haaland referred to her Native American background. “I feel the embrace of my ancestors reminding me why our nonhuman relatives deserve respect—because the creator put them here to live.” “My Pueblo ancestors taught me to live with courage, respect our ecosystems and protect our families—the very same virtues that wolves embody…I will continue to work hard for our nation’s wildlife and its habitats, because we were meant to all coexist on this earth.”
Like many in the outdoor community, I looked on with revulsion at the seemingly insane legislation in last year’s legislative session that legalized a whole raft of practices that blatantly violate principles of fair chase when it comes to wolves. In addition, FWP Director Hank Worsech recently announced that hunting by airplanes is legal, as well.
If the Fish and Wildlife Service returns wolf management back to Federal jurisdiction or returns wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain states to the endangered species list, we shouldn’t be too surprised. When the Lege gleefully went about the process to legalize unlimited warfare against wolves, many of us could have predicted (and probably did) that by going too far in that direction, Montana, along with Idaho and Wyoming, could totally lose any say at all in wolf management.
Changing topics, climate made the news yet again, last week, when a report came out that the overall drier and warmer weather in western states for the last 20 years amounts to a “megadrought” the likes of which we haven’t seen since Charlemagne became Holy Roman Emperor in 800 C.E.
The report was based on study of tree rings on trees, including ancient living trees as well as tree samples from archeological digs.
Sorry to say, despite snowfall last week, most of Montana continues to be in extreme drought. It’s going to be another long, hot summer.
Paul Vang’s new book, “Golden Years, Golden Hours,” is available at How Novel, The Second Edition, Isle of Books & Books, or online at http://writingoutdoors.com.
Thank you for this excellent commentary and for letting us know about Deb Haaland’s humane and mature views on wildlife. I was overall pretty proud to call myself a Montanan until this last election.
Thanks for your comments, Noor. I was also quite impressed at Sec. Haaland’s deep feeling for nature and wildlife. Quite refreshing. As for the political note, pendulums do swing both ways, though it’s going to take a lot of organizing to get that pendulum swinging back.