October 21, 2019

WGL Delisting of Wolves Complex and Left Open For Failure

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What some consider the world’s most difficult puzzles to solve, are those where large written documents are essentially shredded and the participants must put all the shredded pieces back together again. The Department of Interior’s third stab at removing gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes (WGL) Distinct Population Segment (DPS) from federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), while not capable of standing up to the world’s most complicated puzzles, appears to be much more complicated than it needs to be, leaving me wondering if this is the intent in order to leave room for costly and time consuming lawsuits. Sigh!

During the last attempt to delist wolves, a lawsuit, Humane Society of the United States v. Kempthorne, was awarded to the plaintiffs that failed at removing gray wolves from federal protection. Judge Paul Friedman ruled that he was going to place protection of the wolves back under the ESA until such time as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), i.e. Department of Interior, could show how they had the legal authority to create a Distinct Population Segment of gray wolves, or any other species, for the purpose of delisting that same species.

Shortly after that ruling, I wrote that Friedman’s decision was not at all based on scientific evidence and that the Judge had no legitimate reason to return wolves to protection other than the fact that as a judge, he could.

For what it’s worth, the Solicitor for the Department of Interior, on December 12, 2008, issued an official opinion as to how the USFWS has authority under the ESA to create a DPS in order to delist a species.

In the most recent proposal to delist wolves, the USFWS briefly explains their authority:

Our authority to make these determinations and to revise the list accordingly is a reasonable interpretation of the language of the Act, and our ability to do so is an important component of the Service’s program for the conservation of threatened and endangered species. Our authority to revise the existing listing of a species (the gray wolf in Minnesota and the gray wolf in the lower 48 States and Mexico, excluding Minnesota) to identify a Western Great Lakes DPS and determine that it is healthy enough that it no longer needs the Act’s protections is found in the precise language of the Act. Moreover, even if that authority were not clear, our interpretation of this authority to make determinations under section 4(a)(1) and to revise the endangered and threatened species list to reflect those determinations under section 4(c)(1) is reasonable and fully consistent with the Act’s text, structure, legislative history, relevant judicial interpretations, and policy objectives.

The information presented to support the USFWS’ authority to create a DPS for the purpose of delisting a species within that DPS is not new information. The same information existed in 2008 and yet somehow the USFWS in Humane Society of the United States v. Kempthorne, couldn’t sufficiently explain to Judge Paul Friedman where it got it’s authority; another example of ineptitude or corruption in representing the people in the court of law.

This is but one issue that could possibly derail an attempt to delist gray wolves. If lawsuits, which are as sure to happen as the sun rising in the morning, are intended to stop the delisting, will the explanations given in this proposal satisfy Judge Friedman’s query as to where USFWS gets its authority?

Unfortunately, this proposal to delist is further complicated by adding to it a determination by the USFWS not to recognize another species of wolf cohabiting in the same DPS. Why was it necessary to do this? Why couldn’t the USFWS made a separate announcement or proposal that it did not feel that sufficient scientific evidence existed to determine the existence of another species of wolf(eastern wolf)?

As complex as proposals to delist a species can get, why would the USFWS choose to clutter up this delisting with information pertaining to separate petitions? Efforts like this leave people like me wondering if the real intention of the USFWS is to derail the delisting for personal agendas, etc.

While I and others place our attention of things like whether the USFWS has sufficiently satisfied the courts to explain their authority to create DPS’s for delisting, and whether or not a proposal cluttered with explanations aimed at nefarious petitions and claims of the existence of a brand new species of wolf, in the end all that will matter is what one judge thinks.

Sportsmen in the WGL region shouldn’t spend too much time just yet honing their wolf hunting and trapping skills.

Tom Remington

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