ALERT: Conservation Groups File Wolf Rider Appeal to the Ninth Circuit…

Conservation groups filed an appeal to the US Ninth Circuit, on September 8, 2011, challenging the constitutionality of the wolf delisting rider.  Leading the fight is Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians.  Center For Biological Diversity and Western Watersheds Project are also plaintiffs in the appeal.

Rider Appeal, Ninth Circuit Court, Opening Brief, Sept. 8, 2011

What impressed me about their opening brief was the introduction. It quotes the famed ecologist and environmentalist Aldo Leopold’s Thinking Like a Mountain, from A Sand County Almanac,  In his writing, Leopold introduces the concept of trophic cascades.

“The concept of a trophic cascade is put forth in the chapter “Thinking Like a Mountain”, wherein Leopold realizes that killing a predator wolf carries serious implications for the rest of the ecosystem.”


Thinking Like A Mountain

by Aldo Leopold

In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy: how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable slide-rocks.

We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters’ paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.

Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddle horn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers.

I now suspect that just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer. And perhaps with better cause, for while a buck pulled down by wolves can be replaced in two or three years, a range pulled down by too many deer may fail of replacement in as many decades. So also with cows. The cowman who cleans his range of wolves does not realize that he is taking over the wolf’s job of trimming the herd to fit the
range. He has not learned to think like a mountain. Hence we have dust bowls, and rivers washing the future into the sea.

We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness.The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes,and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum:In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men.

ALDO LEOPOLD, A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC, AND SKETCHES HERE AND  THERE, Thinking Like a Mountain, at 129–133, Commemorative edition 1989, ©1949, Oxford University Press, Inc.


Photo: Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Posted in: Wolf Wars, Wolf Delisting Lawsuit

Tags: US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, WildEarth Guardians, Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, wolves in peril, wolf delisting rider

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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautifully written. All my hopes and prayers will follow this appeal.

  2. My Hopes and prayers also…
    Something I need to say here…For my self DOW has let the wolves down. Yet I still receive emails from them for money to “Save” the wolves?
    I think its important WHO is leading these efforts and its not DOW. :(
    Just my .02 cents but next time DOW comes asking for $ ask them what they have done lately?
    B/c these orgs above are doin’ the heavy liftin’!

  3. i’m happy these groups are continuing the battle for these animals.I live in the southeast and take occasional hikes but i served in vietnam as a grunt and have no desire to hunt.I never understood what a great hate these people out west have for others until i began to read their blogs and postings;i wish they could have been with me in bong song province in 1969 and ’70.The idea that anyone else has’nt an idea of value would have meshed perfectly with the army’s policies.Montana’s desire to eradicate the wolf is as irrational as Nixon’s idea we could win in Vietnam.I’ve never forgotten the needless killing of god’s creatures and I suppose it brings a certain joy to sportsmen.Course the wolves can’t shoot back…

  4. Since you are wondering what the DOW are doing, I can tell you that they are preparing a big party on September 22nd. Other than that, nothing much. I also used to be a supporter and a believer in their work and I also feel that they let the Idaho and Montana wolves down. Needless to say, I am no longer supporting them. I am also very disappointed that they are not using their powerful resources to at least spread the word about the tragedy that is unfolding in the Northern Rockies right now. I live in Boston. Nobody here either knows or cares about the Idaho, Montana and Wyoming wolves. There is a tremendous need for information and education here and the DOW could make a difference, I think. But they chose to concentrate on the party…

  5. Brilliant. Thank you Nabeki. Thank you everyone who has written and called and posted, supplied valuable information. CMM here, Charlot.
    I wrote of Bodhi my wolf bred dog, gone for many years, a dream. The next dream time, I’d another. I felt certain it was of the future.
    I mentioned a hand suggesting community in a dream, only.

    A giant brown skinned hand, as of an Amerindian, extended over a piece of white paper on which political boundaries were drawn in ink. The areas were fused into one. I saw no state or country names. Held carefully between fingers and thumb by their collective scruff, were as many as five? gray Great Dane pups soaked to the skin, saved from drowning. I was convinced the wolves would win, and no mere reprieve. How can you say.. It’s okay, it’s a win? If it isn’t I’ll stop dreaming.

    Yesterday I logged on to work. I realized all I was doing was waiting for a reply or a posting. I felt like a miserable anxious codependent. I chased down addresses, read and copied reports and old blogs for future reference. Finally I searched for the site, date attached and saw the explosion.
    It’s time to pray for domino effect. More can be won for wilderness and for you in the U.S. slightly better government, better legislation. Here we have Crown Law, laws that exempt the people who make them.

    Olson delivered a speech…The Spiritual Need
    “Wilderness offers sense of cosmic purpose if we open our hearts and minds to its possibilities,”…”It may come in burning instants of truth when everything stands clear. It may come as a slow realization after long periods of waiting. Whenever it comes, life is suddenly illumined, beautiful and transcendent and we are filled with awe and happiness.”
    For the Wolves
    For Peace
    C Morgan McNeil

    • You are not alone in your restless frustration, heart hugs C Morgan. Keep the faith.

      • Thank you for that. I want there to be great forests full of wolves.
        I believe the rider will be repealed. Belief cannot rely on reason.
        If so much research supports them, and the lawsuit is strong, still when I think of the court that will hear their case, those who are determined to destroy the wolves’ world, I am filled with fear. I must remember that the wolves and the people who are working now to protect them in truth are stronger than the men whose power resides in a gun.
        For the Wolves
        For Peace
        C. Morgan McNeil

      • C Morgan, I am frightened too my friend, and there is a great sadness within me that I never knew before because of it. Is it the death of innocence, remnants from a time when as a child I roamed my favorite sacred spaces … once upon a time when the little things in life still seemed to matter?

        Or is it caused by the lack of humanity that was always there, only now illuminated by the shackles of overwhelming heart ache and despair… a time when only the soulless appear to govern the world with the worst of possibilities becoming our reality?

        We are equal parts dilemma and resolution. In as much as there are those who are intent upon destruction, who view the human jugular as a delicacy or usurp justice, there are those who are just as determined to stop them. I believe in that collective goodness…and I know it will prevail. Still, it is difficult to maintain hope when the spirit is weary, and that is why we have one another. In this, we find our greatest strength, our consummate blessing.

        The pendulum swings both ways…it’s time for balance, justice for the wolves….healing for our world and for ourselves.

      • C Morgan,

        “Wilderness offers sense of cosmic purpose if we open our hearts and minds to its possibilities,”…”It may come in burning instants of truth when everything stands clear. It may come as a slow realization after long periods of waiting. Whenever it comes, life is suddenly illumined, beautiful and transcendent and we are filled with awe and happiness.”

        How incredibly beautiful…thank you so very much for sharing.

  6. This passage is reverence personified. Profound, sacred…and timeless. Every time I read it, it brings tears to my eyes and a deeper appreciation of what it means to be fully human, alive and connected. And I embrace each word with all that is within me.

    Aldo speaks from a place of deep instinctive insightfllness, borne of wisdom, suffering and empathy….it is in essence, the voice of Spirit. Aldo’s personal epiphany speaks of what it means to be humbled, to see the grander scheme of things. This is the impetus of our journey back to nature, and by extension…to ourselves.

    I am eternally grateful for the dedication and heart of these stalwart souls who will not relent in the fight for our beloved canines, our world is a better place just knowing they are in it. Their commitment is our celebration in the midst of despair…and evidence of the goodness that still thrives within this world. May all individuals involved in this labor of love receive abundant blessings as their collective efforts are rewarded with every success.

    And may the Mountain continue to bestow its ancient wisdom, engendering compassion, to those who most need to hear.

    ” Through the awakened spirit, the eternal mind suddenly shudders. It trembles and …remembers. ~ Mary Summer Rain~

    May we all remember….

    Love & prayers

  7. I just read the appeal …… & it makes a lot of sense. I mean, nothing was done by the rules of the ESA or by the law of the Constitution. You would think it would be an easy case – but NO. I hope that this does it.
    Nice work on the lawyers part – good luck to them!! Please let this work somehow, someway.

    Always Remember 9/11 ~

    • It’s amazing when you read the truth in black and white, without all the hysterical rambling of the wolf haters. They do not have facts or science on their side. The ONLY reason they got this far is the politicians that run these states are all anti-wolf, or at least pretending to be, to gain votes with the hunting and ranching crowd.. It’s unbelievable how far this situation has deteriorated in the last several years.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,

  8. Just wanted to let people know about a magazine to boycott. Stumbled on a copy of Range magazine. In the fall 2011 edition, there is an article titled “Living on the Wolf Highway” written by Rochelle Danielson. This article talks about all of the false stereotypes that people use to justify the slaughter of wolves. It is very biased and very negative toward the wolves. It even claims that they go after children. Who actually believes this stuff? The ranchers involved in these false accusations are Tom and Lori Schaafsma. The article is very misleading, full of false documentation, and very pro-slaughter. Please do not purchase this magazine. I have notified the editor of the magazine about the false information in the article. The websites for the editors are and Just wanted to let people know what harmful journalism there is out there being circulated against these wolves.

    • I try not to read that stuff Gretchen because it depresses me and takes away my drive to move forward. It’s soul killing stuff. But thank you for taking the time to notify the editors and calling them out on it. We should all do the same.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,

  9. I loved that they opened with “Thinking like a mountain.”
    May clear heads prevail!!

  10. The Endangered Species Act does not seem to be working due to the strength of Oil domination within U.S. Policy Loopholes. My respect to Mr. Leopold and the Biological Scientists continues to grow and my support will also increase!
    God Bless Wolf and preservation.

  11. A beautiful coversion story..

  12. Any idea when we can expect a ruling (on the emergency injunction part, at least)?

    • Captain Sakonna…Sadly the Ninth Circuit denied the emergency injunction to stop the hunts. This appeal is on the merits of the case.

      For the wolves, For the wild ones,

      • Yes, but I thought that they could also ask for an injunction from the merit judges, or some such thing. Was I wrong?

      • You’re right captain sakonna, they can ask for an emergency injunction from the merit judges. The judges that turned down the injunction were not the merit judges. So when they are seated AWR plans on asking for an emergency injunction I believe.

        For the wolves, For the wild ones,

  13. Those lawyers cut to the chase. Many who post to this site will know Thinking Like a Mountain by heart. I’m reading for the first time, Aldo Leopold’s Sand County, in draft when he died in 1948. For others who may never have read A Sand County Almanac, an excuse really to reproduce these words:
    A deep chesty bawl from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night. It is an outburst of wild defiant sorrow, and of contempt for all the adversities of the world.

    Every living thing (and perhaps many a dead one as well) pays heed to that call. To the deer it is a reminder of the way of all flesh, to the pine a forecast of midnight scuffles and and of blood upon the snow, to the coyote a promise of gleanings to come, to the cowman a threat of red ink at the bank (not any more they’ve got subsidies) to the hunter a challenge of fang against bullet. Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears their lies a deeper meaning known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of the wolf.

    Those unable to decipher the hidden meaning know nevertheless that it is there, for it is felt in all wolf country, and distinguishes that country from all other land. It tingles in the spine of all who hear wolves by night, or who scan their tracks by day. Even without sight or sound of wolf it is implicit in a hundred small events: the midnight whinny of a pack horse, the rattle of rolling rocks, the bound of a fleeing deer, the way shadows lie under the spruces. Only the ineducable tyro can fail to sense the presence or absence of wolves, or the fact that mountains have a secret opinion about them.

    My own conviction on this score dates from the day I saw a wolf die. We were eating lunch on a high rimrock at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: It was a wolf. A half dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming mellee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock.

    There continues as quoted in the pdf Leopold’s recollection of shooting a wolf… ‘In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf…
    on to…”We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in those eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since – something known only to her and the mountain.”
    and Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world.

    It will have been difficult for Leopold to realize that he had wronged the mountain and the wolf. It’s a hard way to discover love or to learn what has long been known among mountains or to regard for the first time the nature of things.

    For the Wolves

  14. Nabeki, how long do you think a decision will take. My thought is – I want a decision now, but at the same time – I don’t want a hasty decision without the judges looking at ALL of the info. that the lawyers provided. The info. is just so black & white. I think a 5 year old would get it …… no?

    Hope you are well ..

  15. Five is old.That’s the purpose of socialisation in a materialist society, to make of a child something other than that which she or he is innately. What will guide their decision? ‘Enlightened self-interest’ or the Mountain? So long as men believe they can do what ever they like with Nature for profit there will be conflict and lawsuits. I want to believe that the spirit of the law is reading Leopold.
    For the Wolves

  16. [...] ALERT: Conservation Groups File Wolf Rider Appeal to the Ninth Circuit… ( [...]

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