Circumventing The Endangered Species Act 101

Yellowstone gray wolf/black phase

Something disturbing is going on. Montana FWP is pulling out all the stops to find a way to circumvent the ESA and kill wolves. They are desperate to have a wolf hunt THIS YEAR.  Wolves in the Northern Rockies just regained their protections on August 5th, after a horrific year of slaughter. Now they are facing new, very real threats.

What Montana FWP is up to and why you should be very concerned:

1. They’ve formed a coalition with the anti-wolf crowd. On August 20th, at the Helena Red Lion Colonial Inn, Montana FWP met with ten hunting and ranching groups with the purpose of forming a coalition to explore ways to strip gray wolves of their ESA protections.

From the Helena IR:

One of the hunting requests involves asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services for an “enhancement of survival permit application” to be processed and issued by Nov. 30, which would allow wolves to be hunted this year. Under that request, the state is saying that a conservation hunting season for wolves would enhance the survival of the species, according to Dave Risley, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks fish and wildlife division administrator. (So they want to kill wolves to save wolves. Hmmm where have I heard that before? Click here)

“The 10(a)(1)(A) permit is a mechanism under the Endangered Species Act that allows for the lawful taking of a listed species,” Risley said. “It would allow us to salvage some type of hunting season.”

“FWP also is making a simultaneous request that the federal agency downlist wolves in the northern half of the state from endangered to threatened, which could allow a statewide conservation hunt in 2011. They’re listed as an experimental population in the southern tier of Montana.”

(They can’t accept that wolves in Northwestern Montana are now fully protected, not an experimental population. Wolves south of  I-90 are labeled experimental, which is a terrible concession to ranchers dating from the original wolf recovery plan, making it easier to kill wolves for minimal depredations.)

“We view the use of public hunting as the optimum population management tool,” FWP Director Joe Maurier wrote in a letter sent Tuesday to Rowan Gould, the USFWS acting director.

He added that while Montana wants to work with the USFWS in a “collaborative, proactive manner,” that “time is of the essence” and asked for a written response to the requests by Sept. 10.

On a separate track, FWP has drafted legislative language asking Congress to reaffirm its original intent in enacting the Endangered Species Act and its subsequent amendments. In particular, the state wants Congress to say that species can have different classifications in different significant portions of the species’ range. That legislation would have to be carried by Montana’s congressional delegation.

The FWP Commission also passed a resolution saying they believe the Endangered Species Act needs to be reformed, and will send that statement, along with a cover letter, to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

We’re using a shotgun approach, rather than a BB gun,” noted Bob Ream, commission chairman.

This list doesn’t include Representative Rehburg’s declaration that he will support House Bill 6028, which was introduced by a Congressman from Texas. It aims to re-write the ESA, excluding gray wolves from it’s protection.

From the Flathead Beacon:

Bill Would Prohibit Wolves from Federal Protections

By Kellyn Brown , 08-11-10

Just days before a federal judge reinstated protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho, a Texas lawmaker introduced a little-noticed resolution that would prohibit wolves from being considered a threatened species. H.R. 6028, introduced by Republican Congressman Chet Edwards on July 30, basically adds one line to the Endangered Species Act.

Here’s the bill:

To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to prohibit treatment of the Gray Wolf as an endangered species or threatened species.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. PROHIBITION ON TREATMENT OF GRAY WOLF AS AN ENDANGERED SPECIES OR THREATENED SPECIES.

Section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1533(a)) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:

‘(4) The Gray Wolf (Canis lupus) shall not be treated as an endangered species or threatened species for purposes of this Act.’

Montana Senators Baucus and Tester, both Democrats, vow to introduce legislation in the Senate similar to House bill 6028. Once upon a time I believed Democrats were better on the environment but after the Obama administration picked a rancher to head the Interior and then delisted wolves, I’ve lost faith in them. Now two Democrat Senators are turning their back on the ESA. I never thought I would see that in my lifetime. Shame on them for playing politics with wolves lives, pandering to ranching and hunting lobbies, trying to gut one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation. If it wasn’t for the ESA, wolves would never have made a comeback! Do they so easily forget wolves were exterminated in the West by the feds?

What are we to make of all this? The power of the state of Montana ganging up on wolves in a big way, unable to accept Judge Molloy’s decision, frantically searching for any loophole to allow a wolf hunt. All this over 500 wolves in a state that has more cows than people. Minnesota’s wolf population exceeds 4500. Wisconsin and Michigan each have over 700 wolves. The Great Lakes Region is home to millions of people, ten million in Michigan alone, yet Montana, the third largest state in the lower forty-eight thinks 500 wolves is too  many. They are so afraid of offending hunters, ranchers and outfitters they’ve apparently forgotten they represent ALL the citizens of the state, not just a few interest groups.

Where is the media on this? When was the last time you read a positive editorial about wolves? Can you remember? The majority of articles revolve around the opinions of Montana FWP and the triad of ranchers, hunters and outfitters. Occasionally there will be a blurb from a wolf advocate or environmental organization, expressing their concern or outrage but that’s it, a few little lines. Why isn’t the media looking into or writing about the “anti-wolf coalition”?  Is the press even mildly curious to determine if it was even legal? Is investigative journalism dead?

Ironically Montana Commissioner Dan Vermillion made this statement, not understanding how foolish it sounded:

Changing the Endangered Species Act sounds like a tough, uphill job, but it’s important when you look at other species like grizzlies and sage grouse,” said Commissioner Dan Vermillion. “Montana has done a good job managing wildlife and we need to make sure we are not penalized   because of other states’ actions.” (The only thing I agree with in this statement is changing the ESA will be more than an uphill job, it will be a battle!! Frankly, people are sick and tired of the abusive way America’s wildlife is being exploited. Just think about the millions of wildlife killed, especially our native carnivores at the hands of the ridiculously named Wildlife Services, the extermination arm of the USDA.

 

When did they get the idea our wildlife belongs to them, to use and abuse as they see fit? They work for us, not the other way around.)

Oh yes, Montana has done a wonderful job “managing wildlife”. First could they drop the word “manage” and just say kill? When you hear the word “manage” in reference to wolves, you can “bet the farm” it means kill wolves. So let’s stop playing word games.

Do the “wolf managers” truly believe they’ve done a sterling job concerning wolves in Montana? Are they so deluded they actually believe their own rhetoric? From my perspective it seems they believe wolves are a nuisance needing to be ‘managed” down to ridiculously low numbers. What type of scientific studies are they basing this thinking on? I remember reading a wolf report written by Montana FWP that discusses Cristina Eisenburg, the wolf biologist, leading a three-year study on trophic cascades. I fleetingly thought this was a  positive step , that FWP recognized wolves have a positive effect on the environment, until I read what they were looking for. The question they wanted answered is how many wolves would it take to produce the effect? In other words, how few could they get away with and still benefit from trophic cascades? My optimism quickly faded.

What upsets me is many of the people who work for the state game agencies are biologists. People that sought to educate themselves about nature, to study wildlife and do good. What the heck happened to these people? If you examine almost any fish and game agency, they are stocked with biologists who seem to have no problem carrying out mis-guided policies that get wolves and other native carnivores killed. I don’t understand it. I think of Gordon Haber, the biologist who spent his life studying wolves, specifically the wolves of Denali in Alaska. When he was killed in a plane crash last year, the wolves lost their champion. He’s the type of biologist I admire, true to his convictions, he stood up for what he believed in and he believed in those wolves!

Ever since Judge Molloy reinstated ESA protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, there has been a steady stream of whining, hand wringing, complaining and frantic behavior that I can only describe as sour grapes. This is the way poor losers act. Even if  FWP didn’t agree with the Judge’s decision, there is a right way for state government to conduct itself. This is not it. Frankly, it’s embarrassing to watch. Any harebrained scheme will get consideration as long as it results in wolves losing their federal protections, leaving them defenseless against this onslaught.

Forget all the other crazy stuff going on, the fact a state agency formed a coalition with anti-wolf groups in one day, without any public comment, is egregious. The facade, that they represent all Montanans, has been swept away. We know where they stand.

This is not science, its pure politics. The revenues and interest the state received last year from the wolf cull (hunt) is something they desperately want to repeat.

Wolf advocates must fight back. I’m posting the links to the contact information of every member of the House of Representatives and Senate, so you can let them  know we do not want anyone meddling with the ESA. No re-writing the language to exclude wolves. If they are allowed to get away with this, I can guarantee the next species targeted will be the grizzly bear.  They are subject to the same persecution as wolves. Chris Servheen, Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator, predicts the Continental Divide grizzlies will be delisted in 5 years. He pushed the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzlies, which Judge Molloy reversed. We all know how this will turn out for grizzlies. Even though the bears are protected under the ESA they are still shot and killed by hunters every year,  who can’t seem to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly. Grizzlies are hit by trains because grain often spills from railroad cars, causing bears to congregate around the tracks, increasing the likelihood they’re run over. The bears become habituated to garbage that people carelessly leave unsecured or bird seed scattered around. We’ve all heard the saying “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Grizzlies have one of the lowest birth rates among mammals, because they keep their babies with them for at least two years. It takes time to teach baby grizzlies how to navigate in their hazardous world.

Several years ago a Montana newspaper printed an opinion piece on grizzlies titled Grizzly Heaven/ Grizzly Hell. To paraphrase the article, Grizzly Heaven is anywhere there are zero people, Grizzly Hell is when bears come in contact with humans, which usually ends up badly for the bear. The same could be said for wolves. Wolf heaven is being away from people, free to raise their pups, hunt, care for each other and do what wolves should be doing. Wolf hell is being managed by a state agency that only seems to care about what a few interest groups want, without consideration of the wolf families destroyed by their policies, the puppies killed, the disruption of pack cohesiveness and the havoc they are wreaking.

Wolf Warriors now is the time to stand for wolves. Please support the National Wolf Recovery Petition,  submitted to the Interior Secretary by the Center for Biological Diversity. Please take the time to read it. It moves wolf recovery away from numbers and concentrates on wolves repopulating their historic range. This is true wolf recovery, not wolves held hostage in states hostile to canis lupus,  wanting to “manage them” out of existence. It moves wolf recovery away from “the numbers game” paradigm that’s haunted wolf recovery from the beginning.  The clock is ticking, we must be pro-active, wolves need us more than ever.

Please write to Congress and express your outrage over the threats coming out of Montana, to strip wolves of their ESA protections. They need to hear the voices of the American people, not just a few special interest groups.

Congressional Contacts: (Please remember this Congress will expire on December 31, 2010 and a new Congress will be sworn in thereafter. Republicans may take the majority back in the House. If this happens we have to remain vigilant and continue to write and call concerning the ESA.  I personally don’t think whoever controls Congress has the stomach to meddle with the ESA but nothing surprises me anymore.

The battle will be epic. The ESA is the bible of environmentalism. It would be similar to taking on the NRA over gun rights.

House of Representatives:

http://www.house.gov/house/MemberWWW_by_State.shtml

 Senators of the 111st Congress:

 http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

HOWL for protecting gray wolves!!

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State scrambling to revive wolf hunt

http://helenair.com/news/article_ab7503ce-b594-11df-ad16-001cc4c002e0.html

Photo: Courtesy Sigma Eye

Posted in: Montana wolves, Howling for Justice

Tags: ESA, Montana FWP, USFWS, Department of the Interior, anti-wolf coalition, wolf hunts, wolf persecution

Update On ”Love-In” Held By Montana FWP With Anti-Wolf Crowd….

It’s been over a week since Montana FWP held a “Love-In with the anti wolf crowd at the Red Lion Colonial Inn in Helena. The purpose, besides sucking up to the hunting and ranching groups, was to form a coalition of anti-wolf stakeholders. At first I thought it was a joke. Seriously, a state agency lobbying to the anti crowd, to form a coalition? No more pesky lawsuits for them, they want to change things on the Congressional level and strip wolves of their ESA protections.

This is the same state agency that authorized killing entire wolf packs killed for agribusiness. Who increased the now halted wolf hunt quota from 75 to 186 wolves and threw in a wolf archery season for good measure.  They gave Wildlife Services control to kill wolves for livestock depredation without having to contact them first.  So I can’t say I’m surprised by all the coalition building with the wolf hating crowd but c’mon, this is wrong on so many levels. 

Not much has been reported on what was said at “the meeting”‘ but oh would I have loved to be a fly on the wall. The handwringing, the complaining, the brainstorming trying to figure out ways to bypass, circumnavigate, detour, go around the barn,  elude, dodge, or skirt Judge Molloy’s decision to relist the gray wolf. 

Ten groups were represented, including the Woolgrowers Assoc. and RMEF.  How about the Cattlemen’s Assoc. and SFW?  Those are good guesses. Sadly, I wasn’t invited because I don’t have the right wolf hating credentials. I happen to believe living in wolf country is pretty special, kind of an honor. 

One thing that’s bothering me is how the heck those select groups found out about the meeting ? As I recall, the date and time were reported by the press just one day before it took place. How did that crowd show up at 10 am the next day in Helena? Was it mental telepathy? Like  “Close Encounters of the Third Kind“?

Or something like “Field of Dreams”‘, if you schedule it, they will come?

Well it’s all a big mystery how they found out. I was under the silly impression if the state holds a meeting concerning  all citizens of the state, they would actually tell them, not just a select bunch.

“The delegates to the Constitutional Convention made a clear and unequivocal decision that government operates most effectively, most reliably, and is most accountable when it is subject to public scrutiny…

While on any given occasion there may be legitimate arguments for handling government operations privately, the delegates to our constitutional Convention concluded that in the long term those fleeting considerations are outweighed by the dangers of a government beyond public scrutiny.”

Justice Terry Trieweiler for the court in Great Falls Tribune v. Day – 1998

Or

  “All meetings of all agencies (includes boards committees and subcommittees) must be open to the public. MCA 2-3-202″

Or

Open meetings

“The legislature finds and declares that public boards, commissions, councils, and other public agencies in this state exist to aid in the conduct of the peoples’ business. It is the intent of this part that actions and deliberations of all public agencies shall be conducted openly. The people of the state do not wish to abdicate their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them.”[20

Another disturbing aspect of the “coalition” is it was formed in one day.  Call me picky but don’t the Montana Sunshine Laws make it clear that decisions concerning issues effecting the public, must be open for public comment first? Just asking?

 The Open Meetings law affords “reasonable opportunity to participate in the operation of governmental agencies prior to the final decision of the agency” (2-3-201).

To summarize, a meeting was held by Montana FWP in Helena, Montana on August 2oth,  with the express purpose of forming a coalition with anti-wolf stakeholders, yet barely any notice to the public was given and a coalition was formed on the same day. Sounds very fishy to me.

So then we have to ask this question:

Does Public Information in Montana Need Better Enforcement?

The question was raised by the executive director of the Montana Newspaper Association in the organization’s most recent newsletter. The organization sponsored Freedom of Information (FOI) Hot Line is getting an increasing number of calls from media, citizens and even government officials, and usually the questions are “straightforward.” And, the answers are “clear as a bell.””

“Has the time come to remove the onus for enforcing public information and open meeting laws from the citizen or media complainant and put the burden on government?

It seems this isn’t the first time this issue has come up.

So what came out of all the coalition building?

From the Helena IR: 

Groups form coalition on wolf issue

By EVE BYRON Independent Record helenair.com | Posted: Saturday, August 21, 2010 12:00 am |

Representatives of livestock producers, outfitters, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts promised Friday to present a united front with the state of Montana as it moves forward as quickly as possible, on multiple pathways, to try to regain tools needed to control growing gray wolf populations.

Joe Maurier, director of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and Bob Lane, FWP attorney, said they’re planning on filing a motion with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn an Aug. 5 U.S. District Court ruling that put wolves in Montana and Idaho back on the list of animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. While that appeal is pending — which is expected to take a year or longer — the state also will ask the federal government to issue “take” permits in Montana that would allow for some public hunting.

The state also is considering entering into discussions with plaintiffs in the case over what it would take to return full management of wolves to the state; seek federal legislation to change the status of gray wolves in Montana; and ask Congress to make it clear that delisting of wolves in one state, but not in an adjoining one, is part of the flexibility allowed under the Endangered Species Act.

In addition, officials will ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to consider wolves a threatened species rather than endangered in the northern half of Montana, which allows for more management latitude. They’re considered an experimental population in southern Montana, which means wolves can be shot on sight when caught preying on livestock.

Maurier added that what both Montana and Idaho officials probably won’t do is try to convince Wyoming to lift the predator status of wolves in that state, because at a meeting among leaders of the three states Thursday, Wyoming officials made it clear they weren’t planning on making any changes at this time.

“Our intent is to be more aggressive than we have in the past and we’ll see how that works,” Maurier said. “… We are going to work our tails off as long as I’m here to do whatever we can to provide a clear path forward and resolve this problem. If there was a silver bullet we would have used it by now.

“The bottom line is we can’t do it alone … and that’s why we brought you here today.”

While members of the 10 groups at Friday’s meeting agreed with some of the tactics Maurier outlined, many were resoundingly opposed to any type of talks with the 13 environmental organizations that filed the lawsuit to return wolves in Montana and Idaho to the list of endangered species.

“How do you negotiate any kind of settlement with those folks that is binding for any kind of long period of time?” asked David Allen, president of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. “Anyone with a computer, attorney and blog can become an environmental group overnight. What’s to stop that group from becoming another group and suing you?

“… I just figure what’s the point with those folks? They have shown no propensity to sit down and deal like big boys and girls.”

While acknowledging Allen’s point, Maurier added that it doesn’t hurt to at least open discussions.

“It never hurts to talk, maybe for educational purposes, if nothing else,” he said. (How open minded Mr. Maurier, the idea that the rest of Montana’s citizens have a right to speak, what a concept!)

Officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which handled the reintroduction of gray wolves into the Northern Rockies ecosystem beginning in 1994, declared in May 2009 that wolves in Montana and Idaho no longer needed federal protection status, and took them off the list of endangered species. As part of the two states’ management efforts, they each held their first-ever hunting season last fall, and wolves that were harassing livestock were able to be shot without permits.

However, Wyoming’s wolf management plan declared them to be predators in most of the state outside of Yellowstone National Park, and allowed them to be shot on sight as long the state retained a minimum population of about 75 animals, or 15 packs of at least five animals each. That wasn’t acceptable to the USFWS, and they remained protected under federal law.

In his ruling earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy wrote that the wolf population can’t be considered “recovered” and delisted in Montana and Idaho, but not in Wyoming.

Lane said he thinks that argument won’t stand up to an appeal, since wolves are considered only threatened in Minnesota, but endangered in Michigan and Wisconsin. Montana and Idaho will appeal Molloy’s ruling on that basis, he said, but added that if it is remanded back to Molloy, other issues raised by the environmental groups also would need to be resolved, which could take a few years.

That’s why the state and groups will also take their case to Congress, seeking fast-track clarification that partial delisting is allowed under the Endangered Species Act. Both Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. Denny Rehberg have announced plans to introduce legislation to give more control of wolf management to Montana. Maurier said those bills probably will be reconciled as they pass through the House and Senate. (Do they really think trying to gut the ESA won’t be met with a fight?)

Currently, about 1,700 wolves roam throughout Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Oregon and Washington. Montana is home to about 525 wolves and plans to manage for 400 or more; Idaho has about 835 wolves, with a management goal of 520; and Wyoming has about 320. (How pathetic is it that Montana, Wyoming and Idaho are complaining about having 1700 wolves when the  Great Lakes Region of  Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin have over 4500 wolves?)

Those at Friday’s meeting said wolves have dramatically lowered elk and moose populations in some parts of Montana and are preying in ever increasing numbers on livestock. They fear that as the number of wolves continues to rise, so will conflicts.

“We have screwed around with this far too long,” Allen said.

I couldn’t agree more Mr. Allen!

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*blue italics mine

Photo: Courtesy First People  

Posted in: Montana wolves, gray wolf/canis lupus

Tags: gray wolf, Montana FWP, anti-wolf coalition, open meetings, Montana Sunshine Laws

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