"Advocates Take Idaho, Mont. wolf hunts to court..."
November 08, 2011
[With more than 150 gray wolves shot in the Northern Rockies so far this fall, a panel of federal judges will consider halting public wolf hunts.]
PASADENA, Calif. — Wildlife advocates appeared in federal court Tuesday seeking to stop gray wolf hunts that are already well under way in the Northern Rockies, arguing that Congress overstepped its authority in stripping federal protections from the canines.
Federal biologists say the wolf population is healthy enough to support the hunts in Idaho and Montana. The two states want to drive down the predators’ numbers to curb their attacks on livestock and big game herds.
But wildlife advocates say too many wolves are being shot too quickly, threatening to unravel the species’ decades-long recovery and killing animals closely followed by wolf watchers.
Almost 170 wolves have been shot since hunting began in late August.
“The longer the hunting season goes on, the more risk to the population in total,” said James “Jay” Tutchton, an attorney who spoke on behalf of WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups that sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar after wolves lost their federal protections.
The hunts were allowed after Congress last spring took the unprecedented step of stripping endangered species protections from more than 1,300 wolves. That prompted a lawsuit from wildlife advocates who say Congress effectively reversed prior court rulings that favored protections for the animals.
Tuesday’s hearing was before a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Calif.
The 9th Circuit agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis. But several groups involved in the lawsuit requested an injunction to stop the killing of wolves while the case is pending. It is not clear when a decision will be issued, though two previous requests for injunctions were denied.
Anna M. Seidman, with Safari Club International, said hunters are being careful and do not want to see wolves returned to the endangered species list. Seidman’s group, along with the National Rifle Association and other sporting groups, have intervened in the case on the side of the federal government.
“Hunters are conservationists,” she said. “The whole idea behind hunting is sustainable use to make sure they’re here now and remain there for many generations.”
Tuesday’s hearing marks the latest in two decades of courtroom battles over wolves. Gray wolf advocates, including members of Shadowland Foundation, stood outside the courthouse carrying signs saying “We love wolves” and even brought two pet wolves.
Prior lawsuits resulted first in the animals’ reintroduction to the region and then later kept them on the endangered list for a decade after the species had reached the government’s original recovery goal.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is monitoring the hunts, but agency officials said they have no plans to intervene because wolves have recovered in the region and the states have promised to manage them responsibly.
Montana’s quota aims to reduce wolf numbers by 25 percent compared with last year, to 425 animals. Bob Lane, chief legal counsel for the state, said wildlife officials “fully intend to manage them as a viable species.”
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/ ... story.html