There isn’t much agreement when it comes delisting the wolf from the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but alas, it seems there might be one point pro-wolfers, anti-wolfers, wolf agencies, and a whole lot of people who’d like to see something different in the news can agree on. We should call it, “The Neverending Story.”
Or perhaps, more apropos, “The Neverending Story–Because Wyoming Keeps Helping Enviros Make It So.” The subtitle could be: “Wyoming’s Livestock Industry Continues Helping Colorado Establish Its Wolf Population.”
Last week, our new Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, infuriated pro-wolfers, most of whom voted for his new boss, by essentially re-submitting Bush’s disputed delisting plan, with one exception–the wolf would remain an endangered species in Wyoming. (Click here for the story.)
Idaho and Montana welcomed the news and started dusting off plans for wolf-hunting seasons this fall at the same time pro-wolf groups rushed to the media with threats of litigation. Within two hours of Salazar’s announcement I received four press releases from greens vowing to immediately sue to stop delisting in Idaho and Montana.
Here, for example, is a quote from a PR I received from the Sierra Club even before Salazar’s teleconference ended: “Northern Rockies wolves should be treated as one connected population. It’s short-sighted and inappropriate to delist wolves state-by-state. Wolves don’t know political boundaries. The Sierra Club, along with other conservation groups, plans to challenge the wolf delisting decision in court.”
A hour or so later, a Defenders of Wildlife release followed suit (pun intended): “We are outraged and disappointed that Secretary Salazar has chosen to push the same, terrible Bush administration plan for wolf delisting just six weeks into President Obama’s administration. Americans voted for change last November. Today Secretary Salazar gave us more of the same discredited approach to conservation followed by the Bush administration for the past eight years. All the reasons why this plan was a bad idea when the Bush administration proposed it still stand today. If this rule is allowed to stand, nearly two-thirds of the wolves in the Northern Rockies could be killed. We all expected more from the Obama administration, but Defenders of Wildlife will now move to sue Secretary Salazar as quickly as possible.”
The other PRs mostly regurgitated the same reaction; you get the picture.
I believe, as do most biologists, that delisting on state lines is about as unscientific as you can get, which virtually guarantees the greens will win again in court and keep the Big Dog on the endangered species list. If that isn’t Salazar’s true intention, it might as well be.
Perhaps it’s Wyoming’s real plan, too. Either that or the cowboys have seriously misplayed their hand.
Wyoming insists on a dual-status for the wolf, declaring it “trophy game” in the northwestern corner around Yellowstone National Park and a predator in the other 90 percent of the state. In Wyoming, predators, especially wolves, are extremely susceptible to lead poisoning.
I realize the following is merely Thursday morning quarterbacking, but I wonder how much political savvy you can find under all those Stetsons because here’s what Wyoming could’ve done.
Several times, politicos in the Cowboy State had an opportunity to say, “Okay, Uncle Sam, we give up. We accept your control over us. We’re sorry for being so stubborn and uncooperative, but we’ll be good from now on, promise. We accept the supreme council of the federal government and agree to make the wolf a trophy game animal throughout the entire state.”
That sounds like something a politician in Wyoming would say, don’t you think?
What would happen next? I speculate the delisting plan would’ve moved rapidly forward. Greens would’ve still sued, of course, but without the Wyoming issue, they might not have won. The other issue responsible the court overturned delisting last year was “genetic connectivity,” but that’s harder to argue with news that at least three wolves have moved all the way from Yellowstone down to Colorado, with one collared female there right now looking for a lonely male to create a “breeding population,” the trigger for Colorado to experience the full force of the ESA. Given that young female’s 1,000-mile journey through hostile territory, it’s hard to buy the idea wolves aren’t traveling back and forth between northern Montana, central Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area.
Assuming the feds whopped the enviros in court, presto, Wyoming would have had complete control of its wolf population. Then, shortly after gaining control, the legislature could’ve implemented its dual-status law, which is already on the books, Wyoming Statute 23-1-302(1)(ii), declaring the wolf a predator in 90 percent of the state.
This would be sort of nasty, underhanded politics, no doubt, but how unusual is that when dealing with the wolf issue? The green groups and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) would be livid, to put it mildly, and they’d immediately sue Wyoming and say really bad things about those cowboys in the press, but would Wyoming care?
Not really, I suspect, and in the meantime, they’d have power over wolf management, perhaps for years, while the litigation inches through our court system, which commonly moves at a snail’s pace. The state would be the defendant instead of the plaintiff and be litigating from a position of strength.
Along the way, they’d probably kill most wolves in the predator zone, duh! And the FWS would probably try to relist the wolf as an endangered species in Wyoming, but relisting would be tough nut politically. And it might also take years, more time for the cowboys to have their way with the master predator.
Compare that scenario with what those cowboys have now–no control and no chance of getting it any time soon.
And probably getting a few nastygrams from their brethren down in Colorado.
It’s virtually guaranteed that a male and female will soon have a liaison down in Colorado and the cowboys there will face decades of federal wolf management and the greens pushing for wolf reintroduction in Rocky Mountain National Park to control the elk overpopulation will have their dream come true–all thanks to Wyoming.
All hypothetical, of course, but plausible, don’t you agree?
However you slice it, Wyoming has, intentionally or unintentionally, right or wrong, delayed delisting and played into the hands of green groups who would want to keep the Big Dog on the endangered species list.