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Afraid for Wolves

April 21, 2011 | Wolves / Hunting & Wildlife Management / Free-Living Animals

Summer Act'ionLine 2011 -- Preview

by Priscilla Feral

Although gray wolves were reintroduced into the Northern Rocky Mountains in 1995, with promises to foster their recovery, wolf persecution resurfaced 14 years later. In March 2009, the Obama administration's Interior Secretary Ken Salazar activated a Bush administration plan to delist wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Five hundred wolves were shot that year in Idaho and Montana by hunters and federal agents under the "livestock protection" banner.

One legal defender of wolves was a federal judge whose subsequent rulings blocked wolf hunting proposals created by government bureaucrats.

Although there are thought to be only 1,500 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, these states championed their ranchers' and elk hunters' interest in removing wolves from the ESA and legalizing public wolf hunts.

Since the ESA passed in 1973, no species has been delisted -- stripped of their legal protections -- in political bargains, despite the Bush administration's repeated attempts to weaken the Act. Scientific reasons prompted delistings. But in April 2011's budget bill, a deal was cut.

"Science has been subordinated to political instrumentalism, setting a dangerous precedent for the future," warned David N.Cassuto, Professor of Law at Pace University School of Law, in an April 19, 2011 editorial in The Christian Science Monitor.

On Friday, April 8, 2011, Rep. Mike Simpson (R, ID) and Senator Jon Tester (D, MT) conspired to overturn Judge Donald Molloy's ruling in U.S. District Court last summer, which returned wolves to the endangered species list, thus safeguarding their lives in the western region.

Simpson's and Tester's trigger fingers attached an irrelevant rider into the federal budget bill pending before Congress to remove federal protections from the wolves of most of the Northern Rockies. They threw the wolves' fates to Idaho and Montana hunters.

Jay Tutchton, an attorney at WildEarth Guardians told High Country News that the actions of Tester/Simpson were "cowardly...because slipping wolves into a 'must have' budget bill pre-empts the legislation from being open to full scrutiny, and from being argued on its own merits."

The wolves were in a particularly weak position at this point, as several environmental groups had just attempted to cut a settlement deal to remove ESA protections from wolves. Molloy refused to accept that settlement--on two main grounds. First, Malloy had already ruled that the 2009 delisting was legally flawed, and declined to go back on that ruling. Second, the settlement wouldn't satisfy all the parties, especially the four environmental groups which, represented by Tutchton, rightly wanted to keep their original court victory.

Immediately after Judge Molloy's ruling against the delisting scheme, Montana's Senator Tester started talking about delisting wolves as part of his political campaign. Tester, a cattle rancher, is battling Rep. Denny Rehberg (R, MT) in the upcoming 2012 election, and apparently thinks the state's biggest wolf-hater will garner the most votes.

Congressional leaders and the White House gambled that wolf hunting might save Tester's seat in the Senate, so with a wink and nod, the rider had few votes to slow it down.

Settlements and Sell-Outs

As noted above, 10 of the 14 plaintiff groups that sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to block them from delisting wolves made a strange decision in March 2011. They moved to settle the lawsuit, and place wolves under state management in Idaho and Montana. This would have exposed wolves in two states to public hunts. The groups said such a settlement would protect more wolves than a delisting that eliminates wolf protections in five states.

Most oddly of all, the ten groups claimed anti-wolf sentiment would grow if they held the line. They were offering political (not ecological) reasons to compromise.

How could "anti-wolf sentiment" get any worse? Idaho's Gov. Butch Otter already claims "respect" can be the same as "hate" for wolves, and has boasted about joining a wolf trophy hunt.

Judge Molloy sided with the four non-settling parties and rejected the settlement on the day Tester and Simpson imposed the wolf rider.

A week later, on April 14th, Congress, as expected, approved the budget deal, including the rider that directs Ken Salazar to reinstate the 2009 decision that delists wolves in five states: Idaho, Montana, Washington, Utah and Oregon. Wyoming is expected to follow.

"This is more than a victory for Montana," chirped Tester, who chairs the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, "and it's what's right for the wolves themselves."

Denise Boggs, the Executive Director of the Montana-based Conservation Congress, has a sobering view of Tester: "He's a consummate liar who has gone back on virtually every environmental promise he made while running for the Senate."

Attorney Jay Tutchton warns that once Obama signs the bill, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will re-publish its 2009 delisting rule in the Federal Register and then that rule delisting wolves will be in effect.

Ask not why Congressional leaders felt they had read the tea leaves on how environmentalists would react to their reckless, revolting deal-making that preserved the wolf rider in the 2011 budget. Ten groups "“ a few of them extremely wealthy - showed their disinterest in wrangling with Congress, crafting an unnecessary "settlement" to heave wolves to hunters in Montana and Idaho.

Here is a list of the Plaintiff groups that offered a settlement, effectively asking a federal judge to reverse a previous hard-won decision for wolves:

Cascadia Wildlands
Center for Biological Diversity
Defenders of Wildlife
Greater Yellowstone Coalition
Hells Canyon Preservation Council
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance
Natural Resources Defense Council
Oregon Wild
Sierra Club
Wildlands Network


Where is the sense of justice, not to mention common sense, when our nation's leaders delist wolves from their endangered status and legalize the violence against them? What personal agenda drives these misguided politicians to kowtow to self-serving cattle ranchers and thrill-seeking hunters? I suppose the answer is that they are, first and foremost, serving their own personal agendas. And it's always the animals, having no legal status, who suffer the most.

I am a So. Ca. artist and have been a fan of the Gray Wolf since its reintroduction into Yellowstone Nat'l Park in 1995. I followed the research and documentaries about the program and rejoiced at the benefits these animals provided in helping to restore the Park to a healthy ecosystem. After the first Montana Wolf Harvest in 2009 and the subsequent killing of a much researched Wolf 527F, I am outraged and disappointed in our failed system to protect these animals and the ignorance about them. It seems that wildlife is forfeit at the expense of politics and greed.

We are in the wolves territory; it is not the other way around!

Maybe we should delist politicians, they do far more damage to the environment than wolves.


"House and Senate leaders, with the consent of the White House, allowed a provision tucked into the bowels of the massive federal spending bill to keep the government operating, which will remove wolves in the Northern Rockies from the list of endangered species and hand over management to states who have signaled their unyielding intention to allow widespread killing of wolves. These states will allow sport hunters and ranchers to kill entire families of wolves and to reduce their overall numbers dramatically in the Northern Rockies, bringing them again to the edge of extinction and causing so much suffering to these creatures. It is the first time the Congress has intervened to directly remove a species from the list of protected species.On the merits, it is a terrible decision, and it will mean death and suffering for many hundreds of wolves. But as a matter of process, the whole thing is rotten to the core. There was no debate on the massive spending bill about wolves, and this is an unprecedented act by Congress to delist a federally protected species by tacking on the directive to a must-pass bill. This is no way to conduct the nation’s business. We are looking more like a banana republic than the world’s greatest democracy. You should be outraged about these abuses of our government process. And we should all feel saddened that the leaders in these legislative bodies have such disdain for the honorable workings of democracy and for the creatures of the planet who depend on our mercy and decency."


This reprehensible action to remove wolves from endangered species protections that was sneaked through by the senators from Montana and Idaho (championed by Interior Secty Salazar and President Obama) by hiding it as a rider on the budget bill is an example of a most un-democratic action by our elected officials and their appointees. I believe the reason this cowardly rider was allowed to remain a part of the bill was that our Democratic senators (Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, Bill Nelson, and more, more, more) were afraid to act against the known wishes of the administration to have it enacted. since Interior Secretary Salazar is very much in favor of reducing American Gray Wolves to extinction, and since supporting western senators who are of this same uninformed and completely emotional viewpoint is seemingly politically desirable for the Obama administration, it was done (supposedly wolves are a danger to ranch stock such as, for example sheep, of whom I understand wolves were responsible for killing 344 in 2009. Apparently 56,000 other sheep were lost to other causes. Ranchers losing the 344 sheep received $142,000 as recompense for those lost sheep). It's the first time a species has been politically, rather than scientifically, removed from the Endangered Species List, and this is chilling in many ways, not only for our (1500 remaining) American Gray wolves, who have no protection now from wholesale slaughter, but also for all the other species for whom one or more of our elected representatives may have a dislike or whose removal from the Endangered Species List may provide some political benefit. Our Endangered Species Act has been dealt a heavy blow, and yet it is barely mentioned by anyone, and doesn't seem to bother anyone but me! It is so shameful and disgusting I don't even know where to turn or what to do. The organizations I have supported and depended upon to stand up in dire situations like this fell silent even before the Senate vote. Only Friends of Animals made a plea for calls to our Senators. I called both of mine, then 13 more, then the White House (where I was rushed off the phone). I supported our President's campaign passionately, but now I don't believe anymore. Disappointed doesn't even get started on how I feel. What can be done? Why the deafening silence from NRDC, EarthJustice, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Defenders of Wildlife, and the others? What's going on? Am I missing something? Is there no redress whatsoever? Can this really happen in our democracy? (unfortunately I guess I know the answer to that. It just happened). I just received an email asking me to support Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, one of the chief authors of the sneaky, reprehensible wolf-extinction rider. Never will I support him, not in a million years.

It's time for a boycott of these wolf-persecuting states. Nature lovers have visited them for years because of their natural beauty and to see and hear the wolves. Surely we can stay away from their "wilderness" areas and parks and ski reports. What about their agricultural products? I am ready.

my heart truly breaks for the wolves and for all the future delisting congress will now do....... and i sent off angry letters to all the 'environmental ' organizations then asking me for money and support not one week after they turned their backs on the wolves.... needless to say, i got no response from any of them, and my previous questions went unanswered except a craftily worded form response. they are hypocrites of the worst kind. thank you do so much FoA for sorting all this out for me. i was so confused until you began explaining what happened. thank you so much. but my heart is still breaking. we fight so hard but how can we win against money? how?????? i don't know how to fight against a conniving liar, because im not one........ all i have is a broken heart from so many things that are being destroyed or abused or killed.


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