An editorial comment by
Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Monday that it proposes to move forward with wolf delisting. It would be a serious mistake for anyone in Montana, Idaho or Wyoming to place much trust in this FWS gambit. Let me explain.
There is little question but what the FWS wants to be out from under wolves. FWS knows there is a biological train wreck coming, and they don’t want to be seen as the engineer with their hand on the throttle when the train goes off the tracks. So, yes, FWS will probably move ahead with some sort of effort to delist wolves, something they have been promising since 2000.
However, wolf delisting will be decided by the federal courts, not by FWS.
Remember when FWS downlisted wolves from endangered to threatened in 2005. How long did it take for wolf advocates to cherry-pick a friendly judge in Oregon to overturn the downlisting? Not long. The exact same fate waits in store for the current proposal by FWS to remove wolves from the endangered species list.
With 300 to 500 wolves in Montana, expanding their numbers by 32% each year, with each wolf killing about 40 elk per year (estimates range from 25 to 100), it won’t be long before elk hunting (and maybe ranching) in Montana is history. So, time is on the side of wolf advocates now that wolves are loose among us. If wolf advocates can stall with a 15-month process, as FWS proposes, they have a clean win.
However, there is hope yet. An organization known as Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd (Friends) has kept up with the required steps and processes of the Endangered Species Act. By virtue of having long ago submitted a petition to delist wolves, Friends has maintained standing to sue in federal court today to force court-ordered delisting of wolves. This soon-to-be-filed lawsuit may be the most important event in the history of hunting in Montana, not to mention ranching.
The just announced FWS proposal to delist wolves is probably only another gambit to run the clock and try to undercut the only real remedy for wolves left to Montana, the Friends pending lawsuit. When this lawsuit is filed, the out-of-state predator advocates will not be able to cherry-pick a friendly judge in Oregon to derail the process. If the “wolfies” are in court at all, they must share the defense table with FWS, while Friends carries the battle flag for all the rest of us.