As many of you are aware, it appears that a wolf delisting bill will very likely pass this week in Congress. The wolf delisting language is included in the continuing resolution to keep the government funded. We expect that this bill will pass by the end of this week.
So what does the language mean: In summary, the language will be a victory primarily for Idaho and Montana, though portions of Utah, Oregon and Washington are also included in the delisting. Important language was also added yesterday to preserve Wyoming’s court victory in support of important aspects of its wolf management plan.
Here is the relevant language of the bill:
SEC. 1713. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on April 2, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 15123 et seq.) without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance (including this 19 section) shall not be subject to judicial review and shall not abrogate or otherwise have any effect on the order and judgment issued by the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in Case Numbers 09–CV–118J and 09–CV–138J on November 18, 2010.
(Here is a link to the full text of the CR “aka H.R. 1473″ : http://rules.house.gov/Media/file/PDF_112_1/Floor_Text/FINAL2011_xml.pdf . You can find the wolf delisting language on page 290.)
You may have noticed, that the word “wolf” was not even mentioned. The mechanism that is used to provide wolf delisting by this language is that the language codifies by statute the April 2, 2009 wolf delisting rule. The language also makes clear that this rule supersedes any other provision of law. It further takes the step of making the reissuance of the rule immune from judicial review.
Here is a portion of the text of the 2009 rule:
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
Fish and Wildlife Service
50 CFR Part 17
[FWS–R6–ES–2008–0008; 92220–1113– 0000; ABC Code: C6]
Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Final Rule To Identify the Northern Rocky Mountain Population of Gray Wolf as a Distinct Population Segment and To Revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife
AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior. ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: Under the authority of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act), we, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), identify a distinct population segment (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) of the United States and revise the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife by removing gray wolves within NRM DPS boundaries, except in Wyoming. The NRM gray wolf DPS encompasses the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon, a small part of north-central Utah, and all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Our current estimate for 2008 indicates the NRM DPS contains approximately 1,639 wolves (491 in Montana; 846 in Idaho; 302 in Wyoming) in 95 breeding pairs (34 in Montana; 39 in Idaho; 22 in Wyoming). These numbers are about 5 times higher than the minimum population recovery goal and 3 times higher than the minimum breeding pair recovery goal. The end of 2008 will mark the ninth consecutive year the population has exceeded our numeric and distributional recovery goals.
The States of Montana and Idaho have adopted State laws, management plans, and regulations that meet the requirements of the Act and will conserve a recovered wolf population into the foreseeable future. In our proposed rule (72 FR 6106, February 8, 2007), we noted that removing the Act’s protections in Wyoming was dependant upon the State’s wolf law (W.S. 11–6– 302 et seq. and 23–1–101, et seq. in House Bill 0213) and wolf management plan adequately conserving Wyoming’s portion of a recovered NRM wolf population. In light of the July 18, 2008, U.S. District Court order, we reexamined Wyoming law, its management plans and implementing regulations, and now determine they are not adequate regulatory mechanisms for the purposes of the Act.
We determine that the best scientific and commercial data available demonstrates that (1) the NRM DPS is not threatened or endangered throughout ‘‘all’’ of its range (i.e., not threatened or endangered throughout all of the DPS); and (2) the Wyoming portion of the range represents a significant portion of range where the species remains in danger of extinction because of inadequate regulatory mechanisms. Thus, this final rule removes the Act’s protections throughout the NRM DPS except for Wyoming. Wolves in Wyoming will continue to be regulated as a non- essential, experimental population per 50 CFR 17.84(i) and (n).
The full April 2009 rule can be found at: http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/74FR15123.pdf
So what does this all mean?
First, the entire states of Idaho and Montana are delisted, along with portions of Oregon and Washington.
Second, the bill stops short of returning full state management authority back to these states, including Idaho and Montana. So USFWS remains in a supervisory role.
Third, If USFWS does not interfere and allows the states do their job, a wide variety of wolf management activities can be resumed by these states. The unintended consequence may be that USFWS may begin interfering or imposing additional restrictions that could once again lead to frustration. Many sportsmen do not have much confidence that the Federal Government will allow for proper wolf management to occur. This is a very important point for future consideration.
Fourth, most states did not get delisted by this proposal, including Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Colorado etc.
Fifth, Wyoming is not delisted, but some important language was included so that the state would not have lost some recent progress in obtaining approval of its wolf management plan.
Here is why that was necessary: The language in the 2009 rule that says that in Wyoming “the species remain in danger of extinction because of inadequate regulatory mechanisms.” This Congressional legislation may very well have superseded an important legal decision in favor of Wyoming’s management plan. As a result the language in the CR that says, “Such reissuance…shall not abrogate or otherwise have any effect on the order and judgment issued by the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in Case Numbers 09–CV–118J and 09–CV–138J on November 18, 2010.” The court case referenced, was decided by Judge Johnson in favor of many important aspects of Wyoming’s wolf management plan contrary to the findings of the 2009 rule. As a result, this language clearly leaves in place Wyoming’s victory in favor of its plan in the Judge Johnson ruling.
In summary, while this bill clearly shows that Congressional action is not only possible, but also necessary to delist no longer endangered wolf populations. It also falls short by: (1) failing to restore primacy of states to make their own wildlife management decisions; and (2) by failing to delist a bunch of states that clearly need wolves delisted.
Efforts are already underway to do nothing more than this delisting. Clearly this will be a major problem for most states. It is important that every sportsmen, rancher and person who cares about the future of healthy wildlife herds help finish this fight.
Thanks for your efforts,
National Director, Big Game Forever