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Everybody who even remotely follows the wolf issue knows how bad it is, politically. About the only way it could get worse would be a wolf breaking into an urban backyard and biting a child. Federal District Judge Donald Molloy's August 5 ruling putting the Big Dog back on the endangered species list and stopping hunts in Idaho and Montana was that proverbial last straw for a lot of people, even a lot of fence sitters who actually like wolves and supported the reintroduction.

Pro-Wolf Groups Blew It

Everybody who even remotely follows the wolf issue knows how bad it is, politically. About the only way it could get worse would be a wolf breaking into an urban backyard and biting a child.

Federal District Judge Donald Molloy’s August 5 ruling putting the Big Dog back on the endangered species list and stopping hunts in Idaho and Montana was that proverbial last straw for a lot of people, even a lot of fence sitters who actually like wolves and supported the reintroduction.

I’ve written frequently (here and here) urging stakeholders to sit down, outside of a courthouse, and work out a compromise, but in all these years, at least as far as I know, there has never been even one meeting. Now, I have to think the pro-wolfers blew their chance to cut the best deal they could’ve gotten. I bet they could’ve locked in a much higher minimum population level and won other concessions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the state wildlife agencies, at least Idaho and Montana, but they didn’t even try. Instead, they kept going to the courts, and now, they’ll be lucky to salvage the integrity of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

So, we move onto the next chapter in the neverending story. The plaintiffs might think that’s the next round in the courthouse brawl, but not the defendants. They’re going to Congress.

As we languish in this ridiculous ego-centric impasse where neither side wants to show a sign of weakness by making the first move, anger has swollen to a point where some agencies and sporting groups refuse to even say the words, “settle” or “settlement”–let alone do it–because they fear it might imply they gave into the “defenders of wildlife.” (See the end of the article for some irony on that point.) Even if the plaintiffs had a sudden change of heart and made some “first move” calls, they’d likely get a quick “screw you; we’re going to Congress” response.

Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT) has already drafted a bill to override Molloy’s ruling by prohibiting the wolf from being listed under the ESA and giving “exclusive” management to the states of Idaho and Montana.

“After hearing from Montanans at my listening sessions around the state,” Rehberg wrote on his website, “I’ve taken a first step by having a draft bill drawn up, but before I introduce it, it’s important to hear what Montanans think.” (Click here to read Rehberg’s draft bill.)

Idaho Senators Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, both Republicans, have also drafted a bill to override Molloy’s ruling, but it hasn’t been posted online yet.

“This legislation will delist wolves in Idaho and permit the State to manage the species effectively and humanely, as we were doing before Judge Molloy’s most recent decision to relist wolves,” Crapo wrote on his website.

“Idaho has met and greatly exceeded every recovery goal imposed on the state by the federal government for the gray wolf and has shown that we Idahoans can properly manage the wolf just like any other species,” Risch added

The Crapo-Risch bill requires the Department of the Interior to de-list wolves in Idaho and Montana (and amazingly, also in Oregon, Washington and Utah) and leaves Wyoming out there in the cold, by itself, going it alone, just like the Cowboy State likes it.

The clause de-listing in beginning wolf populations in Oregon, Washington and Utah should give the greens a wake-up call. Those populations are small, struggling and obviously still endangered, but if the Idaho Senators have their way, they’ll lose all federal protection.

And moving a little slower, but with the same motivation, Montana’s Senators, Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, are also working on a “legislative solution,” as are the delegations in Texas and other western states.

To me, all this says something is likely to happen; it isn’t just the normal, knee-jerk reaction, congressional saber rattling you often hear. Forget science. It had its chance. Now, it’s all politics, and nobody is even trying to pretend otherwise. I believe the Rehberg or Crapo-Risch bills, if passed, would be the first time Congress has ever intervened to make a species-specific decision the FWS, the agency charged with administering the ESA, is supposed to make.

I can assure you that the plaintiffs don’t want to see this happen, but if they’d like to blame somebody for it, they should look in the mirror. They pushed too long, too hard.

Anti-environmental, pro-development groups have been chomping at the bit for decades to “fix” or “enhance” the ESA. Now, wolf advocates may have given them their chance and possibly jeopardized the integrity of what’s widely considered the most powerful environmental law ever. When it gets opened up for amendment, for any reason, back at our big sausage factory in Washington, D.C., anything can happen–and it’s unlikely to be a good thing. And once the precedent is set, de-listing advocates will routinely go back to Congress for resolution instead of fighting long, losing court battles.

The plaintiffs and other pro-wolf groups, heavy on the east and left coasts, believe they have the power to prevent any opening of the ESA. Well, regrettably, we’ll soon see if their confidence is well founded.

My reading of the tea leaves tells me we have so much anger and frustration pushing for a congressional “solution” to the wolf issue that it could easily and quickly happen–something like a midnight rider tacked onto a big must-pass bill without debate or hearings (it happens all the time, folks) in the upcoming lame-duck session. And presto, it’s over; the wolf is de-listed.

That might be a the right ending for the neverending story, but it sure seems like the wrong way to write the last chapter.

Plaintiffs: There has been lots of news coverage about EarthJustice suing “on behalf of 13 conservation groups,” but not much on who they are. So, here’s the list: Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Friends of the Clearwater, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club, The Humane Society of the United States, Western Watersheds Project, and Wildlands Network

Irony: Not many people remember it, but the Sierra Club, a plaintiff, and the National Audubon Society, not a plaintiff, opposed wolf reintroduction and actually sued, unsuccessfully, to stop it. Then, as soon as agencies declared wolf recovery a success and started pushing for de-listing, the Sierra Club joined the other plaintiffs and has been fighting in the courts for years to stop it. Go figure.

More Irony, Defending Defenders: Some anti-wolfers generally and incorrectly refer to plaintiffs as the “defenders of wildlife,” and it isn’t a compliment. In fact, “defenders of wildlife ” has become sort of a moniker for radical eastern environmental groups. Yes, Defenders of Wildlife was the lead conservation group responsible for bringing the wolf back to the northern Rockies and worked hand-in-hand with the FWS and state wildlife agencies to cooperatively make it happen, but ironically, then and now, I view Defenders of Wildlife as among the most reasonable and moderate in the Plaintiff Pack.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column has been corrected. An earlier version incorrectly listed the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club as plaintiffs in a suit against wolf reintroduction.

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  1. Capt. Forest Pressnell

    I am a fishing guide, hunter, conservationist, steward of my river and a listener. While I have not been out west hunting lots of my friends and clients have gone for years. They are fast losing interest in returning as they see very few game animals (elk, moose, etc.) in areas that wolves have been allowed to “flourish”. When the game is gone the wolf will be gone…or move to the rural areas quicker than they are at the moment and feed on livestock, pets and ultimately easy human targets, ie children, hikers, campers, etc. While it is a noble thought to have some wolves around it has been totally mishandled and their ranks need to be thinned and populations regulated. They certainly have no business being on the Endangered List.

  2. Well I live five miles outside the Park, didn’t think you could hunt Elk IN the Park. There are LOTS of Elk in my area, along with wolves. Again I say the Hunter must HUNT. Go where the Elk are, not where you want them to be. (I have to ask did you cover every inch of that park looking for the elusive elk or did you ‘road count’)
    The Bow hunters I’ve talked to, have been very successful this year. Some friends last year were able to get two elk a piece. (gun hunt). I see nothing wrong with wolves taking Elk or Bison. That’s what the Creator put them on the planet for. Just like Magpies, they help keep diseases down.
    Don’t forget all the domestic cattle to feed ‘your’ families. Much easier to ‘bag’ too. Barely have to exit your vehicle.
    Again I say Private property owners should be able to protect their own from wolves. But any wolf on public property should be managed differently.
    Too many are trigger happy, thus the re-listing.
    Has anyone learned from last year? They shut the ‘hunt’ down early.
    This ‘gps’ device or what ever to track the pack then obliterate it really makes me nervous. This will shut wolf hunting down all together (un-chaperoned). Thus, those of us with livestock won’t be legally able to protect what is ours. (at this point in time I would have to do the SSS to protect my livestock, and I prefer to stay legal.)
    It’s a fact the domestic sheep passed the disease to the wild doesn’t matter when they are guilty just as the cattle/humans are guilty of putting Brucellosis in the Park to begin with.

  3. And let’s not forget the conspiracy to kill us all with deadly parasites carried by wolves…

  4. David, where is the evidence that those wolves that were apparently seen in the 1980’s were “native” wolves. Were any of them captured and was dna testing done on them or do you just assume they must have been native wolves? Another most likely possibility is those wolves seen were likely lone dispersers from Canada. Ed Bangs did not wipe out the native wolf. The federal government and ranchers were responsible for that. This wolf is a lot smaller than people like you think, but ofcourse, you know nothing about this. You never weighed a wolf to see its actual weight. You just assume they are 200 pounds because you read worthless websites like and Did you know that Tony Mayer is accused of illegally killing an elk? He runs the anti wolf website where you most likely get your misinformation from.

  5. No mention though of the condition of the camp area prior to the campers that were eaten, no mention of the baiting of bears in that area.
    You going to blame the wolves for the bear that consumed over half of that guy in 1983 at Rainbow point too?

  6. Yes, Mike, age and arthritis have severely impacted my typing, and I forget to use spell check sometimes. Sorry it upsets you.
    Dewey said:
    “It’s the Elk and Moose and other ungulates that have been without (necessary ecological) constraints. No constraints = no top tier predators .”

    So why are they now working so hard to blame those other predators and everything else for the severe decline in elk and moose? Why are they not bragging that the wonderful wolves have taken out from 60-90% of the elk in various herds? Now we are told everything under the sun is causing the loss, only the “good” decline is due to wolves. If the ranger is right that the Norris/Firehole herd is now 50 animals, down form 650, that is even more than a 90% decrease.

  7. Andy and Todd

    The wolves in 1980’s WERE tested, hence the federales sending them to labratories to be tested after they decided to put them down for fear of them interfering with there master plan. I can’t believe I just read that sub species don’t matter and all dogs are the same, wow, so we could have introduced a bunch of border collies and called it the same thing because all dogs are the same? Wow, so with your arguments they come from the same line, that would be the same thing as saying if our grizzly bear became extinct we could just go get some kodiak bears and bring them down to the lower 48? I suppose

    Andy your right, if the native wolves would be decimating elk herds in my units like the Mckenzie Valley wolves are, that I would be supporting wolf management. THAT IS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT, hence the fact that the Mckenzie subspecies is an exploding population that in specific areas has herds at dangerous levels and I support responsible management of these animals. It is not that difficult, I would rather them take a few bullets than kill and eat eachother with the loss of every elk and moose. We in this area of the country cannot afford to lose 25 years of populations for a natural swing of things as the enviros believe we should. You want to take something from our kids, I will not allow that to happen. I’m not to worried though, because the sportsman in the field are managing these populations right know every chance they get legal or not, nobody is playing fair anymore. They have realized that playing fair will get you nowhere with environmental groups constanly suing, becuase of there dependency on having there constinuents and donators favorite animal on the endangered species list.

  8. For the record, David appears to be personally advocating breaking the law in his post above.

  9. David, it is the wolves that were found as they were gathering Canadian wolves that were not tested. Actually they did test the one killed outside of Yellowstone when mistaken for a coyote, and it evidently did not match any DNA they had, so they couldn’t charge the guy with killing a wolf. Actually they didn’t want to because it would have stopped the introduction of the big wolves & almost did. The other wolf that I know of was photographed inside of the park on a carcass prior to the introduction, this after dismissing all of the reports. The wolf that was roped was not too long after bringing in the wolves. As I understand they called FWS several times to report the wolf and they told the guy there were no wolves around Pinedale, so after a few tries he roped the wolf, put it in a horse trailer, and called authorities to come get it. They of course were upset that he had “harassed” it and he reminded them of the phone calls and their refusal to respond because there were “no wolves”.

  10. David is a poacher. Another hunter showing his true colors.

  11. I would have to agree with Ron,

    I will make a deal, we will let the wolves run completely free here and eat all they want as long as they are introduced to all of the other states. THe arguments about human emproachment and how the animals have to live here, that same argument would apply to everywhere the animals existed in the past.

    Otherwise, we should be allowed to manage our populations of animals how we see fit without interference from someone sitting in an office in New York city. Sportsman are not drunks running around with guns shooting everything in site. They have more respect to the animals they hunt then those that don’t hunt. Especially when you see how inteligent these animals are. We are not exagerating predation numbers, the fish and game are not exagerating them, in areas without wolves they do have some healthy populations, but with areas that wolves do exist you can literally go into the thickest holes and climb the steepest mountains for days and not find a single track. We have to give these animals credit, they love to kill and are very good at it, especially knocking out pregnant females in snow.

  12. …otherwise known as the Great Deflector’s ” Cop Out” argument, nt based on science, policy , the law, or available sutiable wolf habitat.

    Got any other whiz-bang ideas?

  13. David, are you kidding me? Sportsmen have more respect for the animals they hunt than those who don’t hunt? This is a joke right? All you sportsmen talking about shoot, shovel, and shut up and wanting the extermination of wolves, I fail to see how you sportsmen have respect for these animals when you advocate sick and disturbing things such as the ones I just mentioned. The truth is you sportsmen do not give a dam about the animals you hunt. To claim you have respect when you are killing an animal for sport is LAUGHABLE AND ABSURD. I have much more respect to those animals than you sportsmen simply because I let them keep their lives and I watch them without shooting them. I shoot them with my camera, that is real respect and respect that you and your “kind” will never evr understand.

  14. I would like to add something about that argument about the Griz. There was a sow kill this summer in Elk Park Mt. Breaking through the door of a cabin as reported. she was skinny and mal nourished aen nd had cubs they thought but no one could find them. About 2 weks later a cub was hit on the freeway just about Butte comming from Butte’s direction thats within 1/2 mile of city dwellers. Those people that sit in there office’s somewhere safe didn’t spend a dime to help reintroduce the Wolf or the Griz. The lions share came from sportsman’s dollars. If you were a hunter or even a target shooter. when you purchase guns, ammo, and I think even fishing related gear there is an unseen federal tax that is included n the price. This is sent out to the states to help in many area’s of enhancement. The lions share of the reintroduction was paid for with these dollars. When someone from the enviro nuts side start’s these conversations and has rants about hunters, I wonder first how much they have contributed to the enhancement of habitat, not just here in Mt but anywhere and at anytime.. Sure there are a few that do contribute some but nowhere near what sportsmen contribute. It was our dollars (not through the aforementioned tax but through donations both by individuals and business’s) that got us places like the Robb Ledford Wildlife area. When you take that camera out of the bag and shoot that picture of wildlife, It’s because of me and my brethren that helped make that possiable. Now when you start ranting about hunters I would take it that you are a vegatarin. Where do you think that the meat that you would be eating came from if you were not. Talk about inhumane. How about that veal or those eggs. Now I choose to hunt and kill, then butcher my own meat so that I can do it in a humane way first and then control the conditions that it’s butched in. My meat would not contain e coli. and my meat is not held in total darkness and only fed milk and killed with a bolt gun when 6 weeks old so some New Yourker can have his Veal. Please stop with the “thats just old news” when I say that we need to reintroduce wolves and Griz back into their nativ habitat. There is no differance between lines drawn on a map to a wolf. They were in all the Eastern states so like I said reintroduce them in every state that we belive that had them in 1860. That’s the exact same rational that got them introduced here in Mt, Id and Wy. Do you think that any state’s population is better than any other’s? While we may think that a beach front home is better than sitting nest to a super volcano that is do to go off at any time (Yellowstone). We here have chose the beauty of the moutnains over the smell of the sea. But does that make eather one of us better than the other. So lets leval the playing field. I have heard the same arguments that you gave but I still say whats the differeance? Are New Yorkers better in some way than us Montanian’s? I believe that it’s time for the states to take their right’s back and stop the interferance from out of state group that no monitary stake in the argument. Hence the statement about if a enviro group wants to sue then let them but they should then be held responseable for the damage that is caused, instead of the sates residents or sportsmen. This should hold true for all group’s equally not just the wolf people. When they sue to stop a logging operation that is to cut timber to hopefully stop or contain wildfires, then they should be held resposable with a bond posted of an amount that fits the argument. Again I must say this country is on the fast track to an armed insurection and I really don’t see it happening in SC first but it will erupt all across the nation. I think it will hapen in the not to distant future also. Look to your history books for the answer. We are in uncharted waters because we are the oldest surviving democresey in the history of man kind. And I think it was Stalin that said that the US would never fall from an outside source, but would fall from within. That being said! I am not saying I am ready to take up arms against my neibors but I do see that happening. Part of this will be over matters like this where states rights have been infringed upon. As to the comment’s about human attacks. It is only a matter of time. that is what happens to bears. They get humanatized (they live of what we throw away) then they lose the fear of the two legged animal (human) then it becomes a problem. I beleave that it is only a matter of maybe a couple years and we will see this with the wolves. The only thing that keeps it from happening right now is that they still fear humans and their scents, we here in Mt. are seeing (reading about) more and more attacks on dogs with yards on the ranches. we also see that wolves watch humans and track them this is true for the kids already. So don’t be part of the problem be part of the solution. The original number of breading pairs and pack’s OK When that has become 3, 4 5 or ten times the original number at what point can we control the numbers. a sportsmans hunt works both in controlingg the numbers and in dollars to FWP. Last years hunt was a windfall for the state with some very high number of license’s sold, with the chanch for a wolf kill number of only 75 here in Mt. so all those license’s that were sold and the money collected went (can you guess where?) did you buy a license so you could set home and say you contributed to the wolf population. The answer lies with do sportsmen kill them or do we take those dollars and pay a professional hunter to kill them? My thought is trap them and move them to the east coast to their native habitat…………………

  15. Ron;
    Your statement starts out very logical, and sensible.
    Then you blow it with your last statement of which I quote; “My thought is trap them and move them to the east coast to their native habitat…………………”

    This puts you in the same ‘class’ as the ‘tree-huggers’ screaming;
    “Don’t hurt the poor things”.

    One could turn that phrase around, and say; “If you can’t live with what makes Montana, Montana, i.e. hunting ‘fresh’ out doors wildlife for all kinds of shooters fishing, etc etc., then ‘you’ (as in 3 person) move to the more ‘civilized, less wolf, bear, cat, activity, yourself.

    Neither one of those helps solve the situation or in the least, make it more palatable to all involved.

    I don’t fumigate the Horse Butte peninsula for Ticks, because I fear Tick Fever, I protect myself, and those I ‘care’ for.
    Thus as someone stated that if an SSS happens they aren’t a sportsman. I would SSS , if I had to, anything, doesn’t matter what species, if it threatens my livelihood, or my family, yet I’m not going out ‘gunning’ for any of them either.
    I quit hunting years ago. I haven’t stopped eating meat, besides I don’t like hearing vegetables scream for their lives when you rip em out of the ground taking them from the ‘breast of their mother’ so-to-speak.
    So please people that “move em to Central Park” is lame from the git-go.

  16. Mike,

    I would like to see you go tell the plains Natives they have no respect for buffalo, because they hunted the animal, lol.

    I hunt the animals, I view them, practically worship them, and I thank god every time I have an opportunity to harvest one and feed my family with its much healthier substinance then corn fed beef. I have real respect for Elk and I do not advicate eradicating wolves, but managing them just like the rest of our wildlife. I assure you that the wolves will have a viable population while still assuring sportsman have an opportunity to harvest animals.

    You comments bring out the real reason of wolf introduction that environmentalists desire, the end of hunting! Well you guys keep your corn fed beef and sleep well at night well your bacon sits in your fridge. I know 99% of anti hunters are not vegetarians and love there bacon coming out of a factory slaughterhouse. How respectful of animals they are!

    I will continue living the same traditions as my Grandfather and his grandfather before him, that would include substinance of wild game.

  17. Notrralph,

    Interesting post, I agree with everything you said, which main part of this applies to wolves and reintroduction?

    I guess the whole thing, but what exactly is your main point?

  18. The opinion above has nothing to do with the intents of anti terrorism or the endangered species act persay, or whether I support terrorism or the death of some animal or other specie ! Any such contention is a red herring across the trail of factual truth. This opinion has to do with one thing, IS THE BILL TREATISE OR MEASURE CONSTITUTIONAL OR NOT ? And if it is not how can members of the Senate, the House, and any State legislative body support them without violating their OATH OF OFFICE ?

    This has every thing to do with the actions allowed or not allowed by the federal government concerning states issues. Either we are a nation of law or we are not.