Update: The Wolves, the Deer, and the Law
In this column:
- Say it ain't so, Judge Molloy... The wolf de-listing case on appeal.
- Friends of Animals vs. National Parks Arrived at the Federal Appeals Court. What next?
- Sunday Hunting? No way!
Gray or grey wolves (Canis lupus), often simply called wolves, are the biggest living Canidae (wild dogs), and the ancestors of domesticated dogs. While we call dogs our “best friends” we treat their living ancestors with deadly spite. We chased wolves from the northern Rocky Mountains, only to re-introduce them in the 1990s, whereupon ranchers and government agents once again eyed these agile and socially sophisticated mammals with ire. With as few as 1,500 wolves now living in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, these states are amplifying ranchers’ and elk hunters’ call for public wolf hunts.
In March 2009, when the Obama administration moved to yank them from the Endangered Species Act, wolves were shot in the hundreds. In August 2010, one of Montana’s five federal district judges, Donald Molloy, ruled to restore Endangered Species Act protection to the wolves.
Judge Molloy’s state, Montana, is home to a little more than 500 wolves. The state is poised to let people kill 220 with arrows and rifles. Meanwhile, Wildlife Services agents keep killing wolves too.
Efforts to dilute Judge Molloy’s protective ruling started immediately. When the Center for Biological Diversity and other groups agreed to go along with the federal government and herald a settlement that would keep endangered species protections just for the smaller populations in Oregon and Washington and any wolves that migrate to Utah, Molloy rejected this political compromise and ruled that endangered-species decisions should not depend on state lines.
Then, in April 2011, an odd and lethal bargain was cut. Mike Simpson, a Republican representative from Idaho, and Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, conspired to overturn the court’s decisions by way of a rider on a federal budget bill to remove the judicial shield from the wolves in most of the northern Rockies.
Congress approved the budget, rider and all. So Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar has – just in time for a hunting season – de-listed wolves in five states: Idaho, Montana, Washington, Utah and Oregon.
Wyoming already has a hostile plan, and backs virtually free-for-all killing of the 300-plus wolves in most of the state. Yellowstone Park wolves regularly venture out of the park boundaries, unknowingly risking their lives. In this context, Salazar and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe have agreed with Wyoming Governor Matt Meade to support a plan (contingent on the state legislature’s agreement) to let people freely kill most of the state’s population of wolves. Wyoming would only be required to maintain 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone, meaning 200 wolves may be slaughtered if this reckless plan is approved. Well aware of the opposition, Wyoming Representative Cynthia Lummis inserted an anti-wolf rider into the legislature’s 2012 appropriations bill to seal the management scheme from lawsuits.
Friends of Animals president Priscilla Feral calls such political tactics “unconscionable” and attorney Jay Tutchton of WildEarth Guardians went to Missoula to tell Judge Molloy that slipping a change in the wolves’ status into budget bills defeats meaningful public scrutiny. Congress has directed a de-listing even as appeals are still pending on the judge's decision, which put the wolves back on the endangered list.
High Country News has called Molloy "[o]ne of the greenest judges in the West" for ruling that grizzly bears of the Greater Yellowstone should remain on the endangered species list; for upholding a federal decision to keep 400,000 acres in the Lolo National Forest off-limits to snowmobiles; and for stopping numerous logging projects. Then again, the Ninth Circuit has blocked logging projects that Molloy allowed to go forward.
As we go to press, news has broken of Judge Molloy’s decision on the latest turn in the case that was subjected to the budget bill rider. The news is not good.
Friends of Animals’ legal experts are now drafting an amicus brief to buttress the appeal by Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians to the Ninth Circuit “to preserve both wolves and the rule of law in the Northern Rockies.”
Jay Tutchton, on behalf of the same three groups, moved for an emergency injunction to shield the wolves of Idaho and Montana – an eleventh-hour bid to avert the bloodbath.
[STOP THE PRESS: THIS INJUCTION WAS DENIED.]
Meanwhile, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission has approved hunting and trapping seasons. Their regulations allow traps to be left unchecked up to 72 hours. “A wolf could struggle three days in a trap,” says Priscilla Feral, “if the trapper follows the regulation before returning to the trap, to kick the wolf or whatever they want to do to express their triumph over the body – you know the vindictiveness some of these people express openly to our website – and finally to shoot or club the wolf to death.”
Officials say they'll keep at least 150 wolves living. The rhetoric of commissioners is eerier still. Commissioner Kenny Anderson stated, “I want more for my area, a better hunt and to take out more wolves.” Commissioner Fred Trevey proposed that the price for the nonresident wolf-hunting and trapping permits be reduced to $31.75 each.
Montana is allowing 220 wolves to be shot, beginning on the 3 rd of September. More than 1,000 tags were sold in the first few days, starting on Aug. 8, at the price of just $19 for residents ($350 for tourists). Wolf-stalkers can, with permission, even go on private lands.
We Howl Again
Friends of Animals announced Howl-Ins for wolves in early August, beginning with a march to the White House led by Capital Correspondent Dustin Rhodes. (International support welcome! If you can set one up in your area, or need a howling wolves CD, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org)
We also called for a travel and economic boycott against states whose governors place the interests of elk hunters and ranchers over wolves: Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
“We need to put the economic screws to state governments that persecute wolves at the behest of haters,” Priscilla Feral said.
On the Air: Issues with Jane Velez-Mitchell is live weekdays at 7pET/4pPT on HLN, a network of CNN.
On Twitter: @issueswithjvm
On the Web: http://www.cnn.com/jane
Priscilla Feral was a guest of Jane Velez-Mitchell on Aug. 12 th at CNN ’s HLN TV, talking about the Rally for Wolves movement and efforts to halt the killing. Thousands of letters and messages of support followed; people are setting up Howl-Ins in a variety of areas and sending their opinions to the governors of states which refuse to respect wolves’ interests in living on the land. Jane Velez-Mitchell is to be thanked and admired for galvanizing this campaign. Through social media, we have had an overwhelming response by people joining a boycott of travel to Yellowstone and other destinations in each state for as long as they continue persecuting wolves.
Governors Who Need to Hear Us:
Governor Butch Otter of Idaho
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720
Governor Brian D. Schweitzer
Office of the Governor
Montana State Capitol Bldg.
P.O. Box 200801
Helena, MT 59620-0801
Governor Matt Mead of Wyoming
State Capitol, 200 West 24th St.
Cheyenne, WY 82002-0010
And in the East, Where Wolves Were Exterminated Long Ago (A Cautionary Tale)
Friends of Animals, joined by the Chester County group CARE, have struggled for the deer and coyotes of Valley Forge National Historical Park all the way to the appeals level. With the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver well equipped to present oral arguments in Philadelphia, we prepared to deliver a strong case of high public and ecological importance.
But just before the hearing date, a panel of judges for the Third Circuit upheld the deer-control plan for Valley Forge. The lawsuit managed to hold off the shooting in Valley Forge for just one season: the 2009-10 winter.
Our call was clear: Let the coyotes live. Let the deer live. The potential of coyotes and bobcats as capable predators in eastern Pennsylvania’s bio-community can never be known as long as the Pennsylvania Game Commission continues to treat them as nuisance animals, allowing continual hunting and trapping of these animals.
Other regions of North America accept a balance between carnivores and herbivores. There, people do not call deer a problem.
We plan to pursue this issue further by presenting information in Pennsylvania (and beyond) about how the balance of nature can be respected, for the benefit of ourselves and the animals we live amidst.
We also intend to pursue this issue, as Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Tony Wood wrote, by confronting proposals in other national parks engaged in similar heavy-handed control proposals.
North American Coyotes: Why They're Central
Although Valley Forge National Historical Park officials, and the media in turn, have made ecological claims about the deer needing control because their population naturally increases, we pointed out that the park’s deer population hit its peak back in 2003. Concentration of deer in a given area, by the way, is not the same as overpopulation. We are crowding deer into smaller areas. Who counts the new mansions, roads and malls in the space they use to compute deer density? Now, the park officials are planning more construction at Valley Forge – including expansion of their massive welcome center.
Valley Forge National Historical Park is in both Chester and Montgomery counties of Pennsylvania. Throughout the state, the Game Commission enables constant hunting and trapping of predators such as bobcats and coyotes. Coyotes, like wolves, are natural, capable predators of deer; but they are hampered from acting that way in the eastern part of the United States, where many people seem resentful of these animals’ interests in living, procreating and interacting with each other. Park officials and state government could work together and establish a sane policy in the eastern part of the continent; Friends of Animals asked them to do so.
Indeed, control proponents have, for far too long, claimed deer (or free-roaming horses, and so on) have no natural predators, while at the very same time they kill the predators from coast to coast with traps, bullets, poisons and commercial development on public lands.
Coyotes are resilient animals. They have responded to persecution by expanding their range across the North American continent and inhabiting diverse habitats from the desert to major metropolitan areas. In this context, co-existence initiatives – projects that teach care on our part to prevent the situations where humans and coyotes come into conflict – have been implemented in Marin County, California and in Vancouver, British Columbia. Were similar safety and education policies generally adopted, federal agents who lethally manage so-called nuisance carnivores would be out of their gruesome jobs, and seeking (hopefully) wholesome occupations.
What we have brought to the table through our arguments at Valley Forge is a holistic approach. It is biologically sound, and it stops making deer, coyotes, wolves, bobcats and others the scapegoats of human population and sprawl. This, we maintain, is what animal-rights advocacy is all about.
Please join us, and also consider how important it is to work to defend the bio-community of your area. We need to stop humanity's madness and start bringing a message of respect to our culture. Defend, repeat... until it becomes the norm.
The Game Commission Is Desperate
Sunday hunting is not presently allowed in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia or West Virginia. But lobbying for expanded hunting, and touting its economic benefits, is a group known as the Sunday Hunting Coalition, whose members include (among others) the National Rifle Association, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, Cabela’s outdoor gear store, Delta Waterfowl, Mule Deer Foundation, Pheasants Forever, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International.
With support from these groups, a bill for Sunday hunting has officially been introduced in Pennsylvania .
What an appalling thought that the quiet of the woods on Sunday as well as Saturday could be assaulted with gunfire. At least on Sunday we can feel safe in the parks; we insist that our state respect this. Wearing an orange handkerchief doesn’t feel protective when one’s hiking in a state park amidst bullets that can travel miles. Moreover, the experience of being part of nature in the brush, ridges and trails is embittered by sights or sounds of people carrying rifles and deer and other animals running for their lives.
Friends of Animals and Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer have asked members and supporters to take prompt action. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (see sidebar) opposes drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge , so we can express thanks for that stance, and ask for opposition to Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania. Republican Senator Patrick Toomey could also do with our view. Toom ey received an "A" by the National Rifle Association , indicating what the NRA considers to be a pro-gun rights voting record. Republicans might be influenced, however, by strong public sentiment to keep Sunday free from gun activities. The outcome of this pro-hunting initiative will depend on how strongly the Republicans feel about expanding hunting to Sundays, as they control the House.
Tourism is part of the equation, so if you don’t live in Pennsylvania, you can still tell officials whether you would plan to visit the historical, cultural and natural landmarks of the state were Sunday hunting adopted. To encourage Governor Tom Corbett to boost the state’s economy through the promotion of tourism featuring Pennsylvania’s rich history – and not by attempting to revive a hunting industry in decline – call 717-787-2500 or visit www.governor.state.pa.us.
According to the Governor’s Advisory Council for Benefits of Expanded Sunday Hunting in Pennsylvania, “The economic stimulus provided by Pennsylvania’s sportsmen (hunters and anglers combined) equates to an astounding $9.6 million per day.”
“With declining numbers of hunters, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is desperate to boost its revenue and get more hunters back into the fold,” says Pennsylvania ornithologist Donald S. Heintzelman, who calls the promotion of Sunday hunting “completely nuts.”
“Time will tell,” Heinztelman told Friends of Animals, “if this latest hunting effort can be stopped. I certainly hope your organization can add some significant clout to the battle and defeat this insane idea once and for all.”
The governor’s advisory council also claims Pennsylvania hunters spend more days in the woods annually than their counterparts anywhere else in the country, even those in Texas. Pennsylvania would have people stalking animals some 4.7 additional days a year if Sunday hunting were allowed during all seasons, says the council, and would stimulate an estimated $629 million in additional spending, create thousands of new jobs, and rake in millions more in additional state sales and income taxes.
But Heinztelman points out that the commission needs to increase its sensitivity to the activities of non-hunters in Pennsylvania including birders and hawk-watchers, wildlife and nature photographers, hikers, walkers, families having picnics, students and teachers on field trips, religious groups, farmers and historians.
Thanks to WildEarth Guardians, the Howling for Justice webblog, Predator Defense Institute, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance , Denise Boggs, and Glen Venezio for contributing to this news summary.
- International activists can take action by sending an e-mail with the subject line “Wyoming Wolves” to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe.
- See Daniel Person, Who is Judge Don Molloy? http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com/news/article_b95776dc-c379-11df-9e78-001cc4c03286.html (19 Sep. 2010) for further references.
- As quoted by Mark Holyoak for the Billings, Montana news outlet KTVQ (28 July 2011).