Senate and House pass budget bill with wolf delisting rider.

President Obama will sign the bill into law and wolves will no longer enjoy the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

The House and Senate passed a budget bill which included the rider to delist wolves in Idaho, Montana and parts of Oregon, Washington, and Utah but leaves the status of wolves in Wyoming unchanged.  The rider, attached by Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) and Representative Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), mandates that the Secretary of Interior republish the 2009 delisting rule in the Federal Register within 60 days of passage of the bill and restricts the rule from being challenged in court.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

The removal of a species from the Endangered Species Act by Congress is an unprecedented move and is likely to be followed by more such moves in the future.  Congress has basically said that if a species becomes too inconvenient to industry then it shouldn’t be allowed protection and management of the species doesn’t have to subject to the best available science.

What comes next is anyone’s guess but surely there will be a great number of wolves killed in Idaho and Montana in areas where their respective game agencies have blamed wolves for declined elk populations. Those killings could begin immediately after the rule is published in the Federal Register and if they occur soon then they will undoubtably end up killing packs of wolves who are near their den sites.  Idaho has committed to maintain only 10-15 breeding pairs or 100-150 wolves in total and they recently passed a wolf disaster declaration which defines a wolf disaster as having any more than 100.  Even though that legislation is now moot because it only applied while wolves were not protected under the ESA, it is a signal of things to come from the legislature next year.

One thing should become abundantly clear.  The livestock industry, with the help of Democrats, did this. If anyone thinks that Democrats represent the interests of wildlife advocates or that the livestock industry presents anything other than a threat to wildlife then they are fooling themselves.  Now that you recognize this what do you do?  Do you hold them accountable?  Do you escape from your codependent behavior that so many of us used to avoid conflict with our families and understand that it is effective politically?  Really, this happened because the anti-wolf crowd was able to rile up people into a fervor using hyperbole and fear that was noticed by politicians who are only worried about their reelection.  That’s how politics works.  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

At least one group is already blaming the non-settling groups for taking away “leverage to rally senators against Tester and Reid” even though the judge specifically pointed out that he did not have the discretion to “allow what Congress forbids”.  Of course I wasn’t pleased with the settlement deal and I don’t think that it would have provided any more protection than what wolves face today but I also don’t think that it is useful to blame anyone other than the people who orchestrated this gutting of the Endangered Species Act.  We could have that conversation but what purpose does it serve other than to feed one’s ego?

The real focus should be on making sure that wolves remain on the landscape and serve a meaningful role in the ecosystem and not just a token population that exists at artificially low levels.  I suggest that there are a few main targets to make sure this happens.  First, defund the Wildlife Services predator control program, they need to be grounded so that they can’t kill wolves from the air.  Second, conservationists need to recognize that the livestock industry is who orchestrated this and that they will be more scrutinized now that they have done this.  More focus should be placed on public lands ranching that depends so much on the good graces and taxes of the public. And Third, the politicians who take the votes of wildlife advocates need to held to account.  Western Democrats worked hand in hand with Republicans and the livestock industry to get this done.  They need to know that they will face primary challengers who are willing to scuttle their entire candidacy just to make the point.

Does the metaphorical Hayduke live?  I’m not so sure anymore.  Can he be resurrected?  I hope so.  As conservationists we have to give them hell.

Molloy denies wolf settlement

Says that the agreement is illegal

Today Montana District Court Judge Donald Molloy denied the settlement agreement put forth by 10 of the 14 environmental groups who sued to keep wolves protected under the Endangered Species Act.  The settling parties had asked the judge to set aside his previous ruling which found that the USFWS 2009 delisting rule was illegal because it split the distinct population segment (DPS) of wolves in the Northern Rockies and left them listed in Wyoming.  The Endangered Species Act does not allow the USFWS to partially delist a DPS.

“[The] District Court is still constrained by the “rule of law.” No matter how useful a course of conduct might be to achieve a certain end, no matter how beneficial or noble the end, the limit of power granted to the District Court must abide by the responsibilities that flow from past political decisions made by the Congress. The law cannot be ignored to accommodate a partial settlement. The rule of law does not afford the District Court the power to decide a legal issue but then at the behest of some of the litigants to reverse course and permit what the Congress has forbidden because some of those interested have sensibly, or for other reasons, decided to lay a dispute to rest.”

Order Denying Indicative Relief Motion

Bill to delist species that haven’t increased in population and impose economic hardship.

A bill has been introduced to the US House of Representatives by Representative Joe Baca of California which would declare a species extinct if it hasn’t increased in population during the 15 years since it was listed and imposes an economic hardship on the communities located in the range of the species.

Below is the text of the language to be added to the ESA if the legislation is successful:

H.R.1042.
THOMAS (Library of Congress)

    Section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et sq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
    `(4) Treatment of Certain Species as Extinct- (A) A limited listed species shall be treated as extinct for purposes of this Act upon the expiration of the 15-year period beginning on the date it is determined by the Secretary to be an endangered species, unless the Secretary publishes a finding that–
    • `(i) there has been a substantial increase in the population of the species during that period; or
    • `(ii) the continued listing of the species does not impose any economic hardship on communities located in the range of the species.
    `(B) In this paragraph the term `limited listed species’ means any species that is listed under subsection (c) as an endangered species for which it is not reasonably possible to determine whether the species has been extirpated from the range of the species that existed on the date the species was listed because not all individuals of the species were identified at the time of such listing.’.

Grizzly’s threatened status heard before Ninth Circuit

Grizzly’s threatened status appealed in 9th Circuit court. Washington Post

Update added on March 14: Audio of hearing before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

I listened to most of this. The government attorney seemed to perform weakly in response to questions, IMO. I didn’t think the National Wildlife Federation did well intervening on behalf of the government. They made a political rather than a legal or scientific argument.  RM

Poll Finds Strong Public Support for ESA… and Wolves

With all of the vitriol surrounding wolves in the Northern Rockies you would think that more and more people are opposed to wolf recovery and the Endangered Species Act. Not so fast according to a recent poll which found that Americans strongly support the Endangered Species Act and wolf recovery.  They also feel that scientists, rather than politicians should manage wildlife.

Endangered Species Act Summary

Poll Finds Strong Public Support for ESA… and Wolves.
Ag Weekly Online: Twin Falls, Idaho

Conservationists seek to expand wolf range across U.S.

Center for Biological Diversity seeks to return wolves to West Coast, New England, Southern Rockies and Great Plains

The Center for Biological Diversity has filed litigation in response to the lack of response to their petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand protections for wolves across a significant portion of their historical range.

Conservationists seek to expand wolf range across U.S..
Laura Zuckerman – Reuters

Lawsuit Launched to Recover Wolves Across Country
Center for Biological Diversity Press Release.

Idaho governor says wolf delisting push stalled last Monday on population goal, other details

It shows that Otter never intended to follow IDFG’s management plan.

Otter once again shows us that the state never intended to manage wolves with an eye toward science. He always intended to manage for the minimum number identified in the legislative plan and that the IDFG plan was meaningless just as we have always maintained.

I haven’t seen the proposed legislation anywhere else except here. It was being passed around via email by those who opposed having any protections for wolves and supported bills like the one introduced by Orin Hatch of Utah which removes all wolves, even Mexican wolves, from the ESA. Groups such as the once moderate Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation were opposed to the Baucus/Tester bill because it provided even a modicum of protection.

As Brian Ertz has pointed out on another thread, it’s not that the Endangered Species Act doesn’t provide for a clear path to delist wolves, it is that the states don’t want to provide that regulatory framework to ensure that wolves won’t become endangered again once delisting occurs.

I really can’t imagine that this behavior will help them to resolve this issue if attempts to change the ESA or delist wolves through legislation are unsuccessful. They have certainly lifted the veil. This will all be seen by the judges during the appeal process and it surely demonstrates that they are unwilling to provide any level of protection to wolves once they become delisted. They seem to be playing a high stakes game of chicken and I don’t expect that wolf advocates are going to blink here.

Again though, wolf advocates are being blamed for this impasse and called extremists for insisting that wolves be managed using careful science rather than politics. It seems to me that those who want to bypass science and use only politics are the extremists.

Who is moving the goal posts now?

Idaho governor says wolf delisting push stalled last Monday on population goal, other details
Associated Press.
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