Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Breaking News
Home » New West Network Topics » Travel & Outdoors » Analysis: Molloy Nixes Wolf Settlement; Congress to Enact Political Delisting
Molloy’s denial of the settlement places the 1,300 wolves of Montana and Idaho back under ESA protections – for now, but for how long? The settlement, prompted by concerns over livestock and wildlife losses to wolf predation, was widely viewed as an attempt to preempt Congress from enacting a delisting based on politics, rather than science. Conservation groups were horrified by the prospect of such a precedent, viewing it as a big step toward gutting the ESA. There’s little to no indication that, had the settlement passed muster with Molloy, it could have slowed or halted the Congressional rush to delist northern Rockies wolves. Montana’s Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg’s H.R. 509 would delist wolves in the lower 48 states. Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson have language in the federal budget bill that would delist Montana and Idaho wolves, turning management over to state game agencies and banning judicial review. Tester said this week he's confident the rider will pass.

Analysis: Molloy Nixes Wolf Settlement; Congress to Enact Political Delisting

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy on Saturday denied a settlement agreement among 10 conservation groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which would have dropped wolves from Endangered Species Act protection in Montana and Idaho.

Had the agreement been upheld by Molloy, it would have allowed a fall hunt of wolves in the two states.

The proposed settlement, announced in March after months of negotiation between the Interior Department and 14 conservation groups, would have dropped ESA protections for Idaho and Montana wolves, in exchange for protection of wolves in Wyoming, Utah, Washington and Oregon. While 10 groups approved the settlement, four were adamantly opposed.

The March deal also called upon USFWS to convene a scientific panel to reexamine the original wolf-recovery goal of 300 wolves. The current tally is based on 705 wolves in Idaho, 566 in Montana, 343 in Wyoming and some 40 in Oregon and Washington.

Molloy’s denial of the settlement places the 1,300 wolves of Montana and Idaho back under ESA protections – for now, but for how long?

The settlement, prompted by concerns over livestock and wildlife losses to wolf predation, was widely viewed as an attempt to preempt Congress from enacting a delisting based on politics, rather than science. Conservation groups were horrified by the prospect of such a precedent, viewing it as a big step toward gutting the ESA. There’s little to no indication that, had the settlement passed muster with Molloy, it could have slowed or halted the Congressional rush to delist northern Rockies wolves.

Montana’s Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg’s H.R. 509 would delist wolves in the lower 48 states. Democratic Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson have language in the federal budget bill that would delist Montana and Idaho wolves, turning management over to state game agencies and banning judicial review. Tester said this week he’s confident the rider will pass.

Molloy’s 24-page decision, however, was based on what Congress and the courts have done in the past – not on what Congress can be anticipated to do in the new few days or weeks. Molloy ruled that his court lacked authority to place a partial endangered species population under state management – particularly if that meant exposing that population to the hazard of hunting.

He wrote, “the Court cannot exercise its discretion to allow what Congress forbids.”

Molloy also ruled he couldn’t approve the settlement, without damaging the interests of the four conservation groups that hadn’t gone along on the March deal. The value of the settlement was damaged by internal dissent, he noted.

“When many of the parties do not want settlement it would be inequitable to force them to relinquish their litigation position for a perceived greater public good,” Molloy wrote.

What now?

Because the ESA was created by an act of Congress, Congress can do pretty much what it wants, within constitutional limits. And because the Tester/Simpson language is part of a budget package, it might not outlive the budget, unless renewed at some future point. Also, while Rehberg’s bill is drafted, the budget language for the remainder of this fiscal year won’t be known until later this week.

And now that the settlement has fallen apart, all 14 conservation groups are free to litigate wherever they deem prudent.

“We will fight delistings that are supposed to be based on science,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel for the Center for Biological Diversity – one of the 10 conservation groups that joined the settlement. “If Tester really cares about wolves and about settling this problem once and for all, he will embrace and lead the administrative conservation measures identified over the past several months, rather than inflaming the situation further with a bogus political delisting.”

Last month, Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds, said the settlement had no teeth for enforcement and is filled with vague promises and assurances. Molloy’s ruling essentially agreed with that assessment, noting there was no ceiling to allowable hunting losses and no hard, lower population number that would automatically trigger relisting wolves in Idaho and Montana.

“If Congress passes a wolf rider, it will not be worse than the proposed settlement – just equally bad,” said Marvel. He speculated that the anti-wolf rider could be stopped in Congress, but admitted it was unlikely.

“We have deeply cynical Democrats who are desperate to help Tester in 2012,” said Marvel – desperate enough to sacrifice the integrity of the Endangered Species Act.

Even though the conservation community was deeply divided over the March settlement, “we’ve never stopped talking to each other,” Marvel said. Part of the ongoing conversation is speculation as to whether the judiciary will tolerate a bill that says judges can’t rule on delisting the northern Rockies wolves, he added.

About Brodie Farquhar

Check Also

One Big Sky Center

Hammes Company Joins One Big Sky Center Venture in Billings

Billings, Montana is moving ahead with discussions on the One Big Sky Center proposal, which ...

8 comments

  1. “SEC. 1713. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on April 2, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 15123 et seq.) without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance (including this section) shall not be subject to judicial review and shall not abrogate or otherwise have any effect on the order and judgment issued by the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in Case Numbers 09-CV-118J and 09-CV-138J on November 18, 2010.”

  2. Todd, you fail to realize that MOST pro wolf advocates don’t work for ngo or environmental organizations. We may donate to them, but we don’t make one cent off of helping the wolves. We do this to try and fight to protect wolves. people like Fanning are not friends of elk. He wants to kill wolves, so he can shoot elk, so really, he is no friend of elk. Friends don’t shoot their friends. We fight to protect wolves from wildlife hating hunters who want to kill them for sport.

  3. How could you possibly conclude that Tester’s rider is no worse than the attempted settlement?

    – The settlement required the FWS to issue a new delisting rule which would be subject to the normal public review and legal challenge standards. Tester’s bill automatically enacts the 2009 rule with no further public process and bans the public from suing over it.

    – The settlement kept wolves in UT, WA, and OR listed. Tester’s riders delists all northern wolves.

    – The settlement established an independent scientific panel to determine Northern Rockies wolf recovery needs. Tester’s bill does not.

    Jon Marvel and Western Watersheds Project may need to trash the settlement to justify their stupid campaign to strike it down, but I expect that you’d not simply parrot their self-serving spin. The settlement was the only quiver in the enviro quiver to convince sympathetic dems to go against Tester and Reid. It was not guaranteed, but it was the only leverage the enviros had. Until, of source Marvel sanctimoniously worked to kill it in the name of some stupid vision of purity that predictably ended up killing many more wolves.

  4. Since this great alleged “victory” over wolves and enviros is Tester’s way of getting votes, the important question is: Are any of you voting for him as a result of his wolf delisting action? And if you are voting for Tester, was it his rider that convinced you? This is what this is really all about, right? Did Tester’s triangulation work?

  5. Thanks John, I hope its’ a Cuban Cohiba.

    Ask yourself how you can compel bureaucrats to save game herds with lethal wolf control and fund the restoration of those game herds without a financial judgment to fund same and change bureaucratic behaviour?

    I figgure if you get punitive { trebel} damages , take down some D&O;carriers on a couple billion you can get a substantive reduction in the size of the bureaucracies and cripple the NGO’s all at the same time too.

  6. Wow…..interesting stuff! Thank you Ryan & Bob etc for the work you have put into this!

    In the next few weeks the latest version (fourth time) of delisting should be out for the Western Great lakes. Late last year the Defenders of Wildlife had said something to the effect that they were going to oppose the delisting once again! I’m wondering if anyone has seen or heard anything in that regard. The congressional delisting is dominating their web site right now…….DONATE NOW is the theme. They got to make hay right now because of them monsters in Montana are going to kill off all of the wolves! ;o)

    It’s inevitable that one of the groups will sue to stop this delisting in the great lakes! Has anyone seen anything?

  7. J.J. I couldn’t have said it any better……There is one thing that I have learned from this mess. The Endangered Species Act in conjunction with the Equal Access to Justice Act fit like hand in glove with federal bureaucracy and are part of the reason this nation is 14 trillion in the crapper!

  8. Nice Post John! Some now argue that because of the wolf fiasco environmental disquiet has wane. With what is going on in Washington, our job is to inform the public that putting wolves in poor habitat or spending it on the EAJA dollars are not the way to spend diminishing environmental dollars.

    Enjoy your cigar!