August 18, 2019

Are Lawsuits In The Works Where Congress “Delisted” Wolves?

We find in the news that certain environmental groups who make their living filing lawsuits, have petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to continue monitoring state wolf management even after the five-year mandate, as part of the plan that approved wolf delisting in Montana and Idaho, which expires this year. The petition claims that management plans in place now are leading to the destruction of the wolf packs in Montana.

If readers will recall, it took an act of Congress to finally remove wolves from Federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. That action called for an immediate relisting in the Federal Register of the 2009 plan to delist wolves, along with a statement that nobody could bring lawsuits against the action.

That action took place in 2011 and this year’s part of that plan states that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service no longer is required to fully monitor the actions of state fish and wildlife agencies in managing gray wolves.

The question becomes one of whether or not anyone can file a lawsuit against the USFWS to force the Service to continue full monitoring. History should have taught us that if anyone can get their case to court, a hand-picked judge will more than likely agree with the environmentalists. Now that the five-year requirement is about to expire, does the actions of Congress in 2011 prevent lawsuits against five-year monitoring? Not everyone thinks so.

In an email received from Dr. Charles Kay, wildlife ecology, Utah State University, he states: “Congress said that the 2009 delisting regulations were the law of the land and that there was to be no more litigation regarding the 2009 regulations, which include a provision that the Feds monitor state management for 5 years before fully removing wolves from federal control……..Congress did not say that final removal of federal oversight could not be litigated.

Kay suggests that a lawsuit could put the case back in the Courts, at which time, “they will sue and their favorite judge will put wolves BACK on the ESA list!”

If lawyers and the Courts manipulate the 2011 action by Congress that would allow for litigation over Federal monitoring of wolves after the five-year mandatory monitoring, then what is to stop full litigation to claim that management is not allowing for the full recovery of wolves, i.e. the USFWS and states are not properly managing wolves as required by the Endangered Species Act and Wolf Recovery Plan?

I agree with Dr. Kay. This isn’t over. If readers will recall, I was one of few advocates for proper wildlife management who disagreed with the Congressional action – action that was part of an omnibus spending bill – to delist wolves. I said it was not a long-term solution to a more serious problem and that such action would come back and bite the hind end of those pushing for the measure.

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