HELENA — A Missoula man has threatened to sue the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks over a newly formed coalition aimed at overturning a federal judge’s decision to return wolves to the federal endangered species list.On Aug. 20, Joe Maurier, FWP director, and Bob Lane, FWP attorney, met with representatives of the state’s livestock industry, outfitters, hunters and wildlife enthusiasts in Helena.
Multiple news reports of the meeting state that the outcome of the meeting was the formation of a coalition that would “present a unified front” with the state in trying to overturn U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy’s ruling that effectively put a stop to Montana’s scheduled wolf hunt.
Jerry Black, a retired airline pilot and activist from Missoula, sent a letter this week to Maurier requesting that FWP “disband the coalition and cease any further collaboration.” Black’s letter also requests that the agency withdraw any work the coalition already has done on the issue.
Black said the agency failed to adequately inform the public of the meeting, and therefore failed to abide by the state’s open meeting laws. Black said he is prepared to take “any means necessary” to stop the agency from moving forward with the coalition, or the groups involved.
“This meeting obviously was directed at special-interest groups,” Black said. “I don’t know of any environmental group that was invited to this thing. That, by itself, should say something.”
Lane said Wednesday that the FWP wasn’t required to notify the public of the Aug. 20 meeting because it was merely an “informational” meeting among interested parties.
“This was not a meeting in which we were making any decision, or even talking about a decision,” Lane said.
He added that media reports stating that FWP had formed a coalition were inaccurate.
“There was never a coalition formed other than a mailing list,” Lane said. “The only thing we had in common was we were frustrated that (the) state of Montana couldn’t manage wolves as a delisted species.”Black said he doesn’t buy Lane’s explanation. He pointed to separate newspaper articles published before and after the meeting that repeatedly referenced the formation of a coalition between the state and certain stakeholders. According to an Associated Press report published the day before the meeting, FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim stated that FWP would meet “with stockgrowers, woolgrowers, hunters, farmers and other groups to discuss forming a coalition.”
Separate newspaper reports published after the meeting also stated that a coalition had been formed to draft a new strategy “for getting more state control over wolves.”
“What FWP is saying and what has been reported in the newspapers doesn’t jive,” Black said.
He said he has contacted attorneys in Helena and Missoula, and is prepared to take the matter to court.
“I’m fed up with the fact that the nonconsumptive user is left out of these decisions,” Black said. “Wildlife belongs to all of us, and all of us should be making these decisions — not just special interest groups.”