The groups that settled have not gained the assurance of anything-
Today’s announcement that a number of plaintiffs in the wolf delisting case are seeking a settlement with the Department of Interior they hope Judge Molloy will approve does represent a difference in strategy how to proceed in the current political environment.
Three groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds and Friends of the Clearwater are standing firm.
Western Watershed’s Executive Director, Jon Marvel, today told me the reasons for the group’s firm stance.
Western Watersheds stresses that this settlement is only with the Department of Interior. No one, including Senator Jon Tester of Montana, has indicated that in response to the settlement they will withdraw or modify any legislation they have introduced to delist the wolves by law, nor do Secretary of Interior Salazar or President Obama make any promise or even say they oppose such legislation, much less veto it if it passes.
There is nothing in return from this settlement except the promise to keep the scant number of wolves in Utah, Oregon and Washington on the endangered species list.
Western Watersheds believes that having won the case in the first place, the groups should not then ask that the judge approve the violation of the law and his own decision (delisting the NRM wolf by state boundaries).
Jon Marvel said that part of the motivation of the groups that want to settle is to allow Idaho and Montana to have a hunting season for wolves, but that the settlement places no limits on the size of hunt, method of hunting, or even direct government killing of wolves including any method. Perhaps even poison would be allowed.
Marvel said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in particular was responsible for the situation today. After Judge Molloy overturned wolf delisting and President Obama took office, the Service, guided by the new Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, could have easily created a much different delisting plan that would have guaranteed protection of a recovered wolf population with ample opportunities for wolf management and protection of all species of wildlife. Instead, Salazar reissued the Bush/Kempthorne plan that did not provide any real protection for the wolf and illegally delisted them on state boundaries, leaving Wyoming in limbo.
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It is my view, and it was my advice, that once this issue had entered the legislative arena, absent any promise from Senator Tester or the Administration to veto, that any agreement with the Department of Interior was meaningless because is was too late and had no teeth. Ralph Maughan
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Here are the terms of the proposed settlement regarding Endangered Species Act (ESA) Protections for Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. Sent by email from USFWS today.
As part of the terms of the proposed settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the plaintiffs have agreed to take actions to clarify implementation of the ESA and to ensure that a recovered wolf population continues to be sustainably managed under approved state management plans. The settlement agreement becomes effective only after court approval. [boldface added]
The additional actions include: The parties will jointly ask the federal district court to stay its prior order so as to reinstate, in the states of Idaho and Montana, the 2009 rule removing wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountain Region from the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The Service will withdraw a September 2007 Department of the Interior Solicitors M-Opinion interpreting the meaning of the phrase “significant portion of its range” under the ESA.
The Service will continue to work with the State of Wyoming to reach agreement on a wolf management plan that provides adequate protection for wolves should they be delisted within the state’s boundaries. Until such an agreement is reached, the Fish and Wildlife Service will continue to manage wolves in Wyoming.
Upon receipt from Wyoming of a mutually acceptable wolf management plan, the Service will publish a proposed rule to designate and delist a Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment DPS) that replaces the 2009 rule.
The Service will base its proposed and final delisting determination on the ESA’s five statutory listing factors and on the basis of the best scientific and commercial data available. The Service may, prior to proposing delisting, consider reclassification of wolves that remain on the list within the Northern Rocky Mountains DPS.
The plaintiffs have agreed not to challenge any final rule designating and delisting any DPS prior to March 31, 2016. Further, they have agreed not to petition to list either the Northern Rocky Mountains DPS or any wolf population within the NRM DPS within the next three years.
The Service will continue to monitor the wolf population and gather population data for at least five years. Within four years of the date on which the court approves this agreement, the Service will seek an independent scientific assessment of whether wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains are being managed in a way that reasonably assures the continued presence of a sustainable, genetically connected population of wolves within the Northern Rocky Mountains DPS for the foreseeable future.