But that might be precisely what they’re saying down in the coffee shops and saloons in Idaho and Wyoming because they could be thinking the federal government has accidentally given them the opportunity to shoot as many wolves as they can for the next 30 days with no consequences.
To this, I say: Don’t even think about it.
Anybody exposed to news knows that today, March 28, the federal government officially and totally removed the wolf from the endangered species list in northern Rockies. Eleven conservation groups have made it crystal clear that they believe it’s too soon to remove protections and plan to sue to keep the wolf an endangered species.
But most people don’t know about the loophole.
Here’s how it happened, as explained to NewWest.Net by Amelia Orton-Palmer of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The Endangered Species Act dictates that a notice of delisting must be filed 30 days in advance of the actual delisting. That notice went out on February 28, 30 days before the actual delisting on March 28.
Orton-Palmer also said the Act says a delisting notification, such as the February 28 notice, can’t be dragged into the courts for 60 days after a “notice of intent” to sue is filed, which the eleven conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, did on the first day they could, February 28. That means they can’t actually file the lawsuit and ask for an injunction until April 28, leaving the 30-day loophole or what the Defenders of Wildlife (DOW) calls “open season on wolves.”
Actually, I should say, 30 days or more, because there’s hardly a guarantee that a court will immediately rule to halt delisting–or ever will. But Earthjustice has been quite effective in such litigation, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see courts quickly suspend delisting.
Can you imagine a covey of wolf haters convincing themselves this might be their “only shot” to have their vigilante justice and do their part to keep wolf numbers down. After all, the courts could suspend the state agency plans and delisting, which could delay sport hunting or liberal killing of wolves for years.
I hope this isn’t happening, but it wouldn’t shock me to find out about some semi-organized “wolf hunts” starting this weekend. I urge these guys to control their trigger itch because being stupid could be self-defeating.
In Wyoming, 88 percent of the state, including the current home range of five wolf packs and near that of ten more, “anybody can shoot a wolf for any reason,” says Mike Leahy, DOW rocky mountain director, without even having a permit.
“A lot could happen in 30 days,” Leahy told NewWest.Net. “There is supposed to be reporting, but it will be very hard to keep tabs on this.”
And according to Leahy, recent actions by Idaho create almost the same situation.
On March 26, the Idaho legislature passed Senate Bill 1374 and sent it the governor for signature. The bill allows Idaho residents to shoot a wolf if it’s “molesting or attacking” domestic livestock or pets. And “chances are nil that the governor won’t sign it,” Leahy says, “since his own people recommended it.”
“Molesting” is almost comically defined as worrying, annoying, disturbing, persecuting, lying in wait, flushing, stalking, following after, on the trail of, chasing, or driving any domestic animal.
In other words, Leahy says, “If wolves are howling and worrying your cattle, you could go out an shoot them.”
“It’s not much of a stretch” to say Idaho is in the same situation as Wyoming, adds Leahy.
Orton-Palmer admitted that the FWS could have extended the period between notice and delisting to 60 days or more to prevent the loophole, but she said FWS scientists weren’t worried about any impact on the wolf population so saw no need to do so.
Ed Bangs, who was in charge of wolf recovery for the FWS until today, agrees and isn’t worried about the loophole being a big problem–”theoretically, yes, but practically, no. “A few wolves might be killed, but biologically it won’t affect the population.”
Plus, he reminds us that there’s no guarantee the courts will grant the plaintiffs an injunction to stop delisting on April 28, or ever. “It’s hard to get those injunctions, especially in this case with the state plans in place. I’m not sure they will get it at all. The wolf population is going to be fine under any circumstances, but a goofy reaction during these 30 days almost guarantees that there will be an injunction. Any bad reaction from the redneck element only helps those who want to keep wolves on the endangered species list.
“But that’s what’s so interesting about wolves,” he adds with a little chuckle. “People do nutty things. The extreme symbolism of wolves has been going on for a few thousand years and always will be there.”
So, here’s the punch line. Don’t underestimate the passion on both sides of the wolf issue.
The Big Dog is greatest fundraiser ever for DOW and many other green groups, so you aren’t going to see any end to efforts to keep the wolf in the news. Instead, you can expect more fear mongering about the wolf’s upcoming demise, no different than rhetoric you hear from some hunters predicting the wolf will decimate big game herds.
On the other hand, western ranchers and rural communities see the wolf as an agent of change–and a change they don’t want. Wolf reintroduction allows the federal government and eastern greenies to control them, and they refuse to believe ranchers and wolves can peacefully and economically co-exist.
With that kind of disconnect, we’ll always have controversy whenever the four-letter-word is used. So be it, but hopefully, everybody shows restraint during the loophole period because any lack of restraint will likely serve to prolong and intensify the controversy.