Montana Wool Growers Respond to Wolf Listing

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The following statement was issued by the Montana Wool Growers Association following a decision to put wolves in Montana and Idaho back on the Endangered Species List.  CLICK HERE to read the statement that came from the Montana Farm Bureau Federation.

As a legal matter, the Montana Wool Growers Association (MWGA) is not surprised by Judge Donald Molloy decision to reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection to the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf population.  MWGA had its legal representation review the Final Rule delisting the Gray Wolf population in Montana and Idaho when the Rule was published in April 2009 and our attorneys concluded at that time that the Rule would not survive legal challenge due to the fact that wolves located in Wyoming were not being delisted with the other populations.  Though the MWGA is as interested as any Association in proper management of gray wolves due to the losses caused by those predators to the sheep industry, MWGA decided not to intervene in the legal case in support of the delisting rule as a result of our conclusion that it was unwise as a matter of policy and legally unsupportable for the federal government to attempt to split Wyoming out from Montana and Idaho. 

As a practical matter, the MWGA has no real position on whether gray wolves located in Montana should be managed pursuant to the mandates of the federal ESA or Montana’s state management plan.  We find both management systems to be equally broken, although our experience tells us that federal Wildlife Services agency personnel are better at performing wolf control and location methods than state personnel and that the federal government should be the party ultimately responsible for the cost of managing and paying for the damage caused by the reintroduction of this predator species.  We agree also with the State of Wyoming’s assertion that the gray wolf is “predator” species and that the gray wolf population should be managed as such and our members are disappointed that they will not be able to participate in Montana’s wolf hunt this fall.

Further, as a matter of reality, Judge Molloy’s ruling more than anything demonstrates that the Endangered Species Act as a legislative enactment is broken and in need of serious, immediate revision.  This is shown by the fact that the recovery standard of 30 breeding pair and 300 wolves was satisfied almost a decade ago.  In Montana alone, at present, there are an estimated 525 wolves.  Yet, despite the fact that there are more than 1700 wolves in the northern rockies area, the rocky mountain gray wolf population is still subject to federal protection and ongoing and expensive litigation.  Given the propensity of so-called environmental groups to sue the government every time they take a management action relating to gray wolves and given the fact that federal judges are, as a rule, sympathetic to environmental plaintiffs, the MWGA believes that it will take congressional action to delist the gray wolf population and to turn management over this species to the State of Montana. 

In May of 2010, MWGA asked Congressman Rehberg to introduce a bill to congressionally delist the gray wolf population in Montana.  He did not do so.  However, Congressman Chet Edwards of Texas has introduced such legislation, H.R. 6028, and MWGA is hopeful that our congressional delegation will support and actively work for the enactment of that bill.  We would also ask our congressional delegation to immediately support proposed legislation to make it easier to delist species under the ESA that have been listed.  The ESA will only be a success if species that are placed under federal protection are, at some point in time, actually delisted once they have been deemed recovered.  MWGA hopes that every Montana hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, rancher, and farmer will back Congressman Edward’s bill and urge Senators Baucus and Tester to make Endangered Species Act reform one of their top legislative priorities going forward.

In addition, MWGA sees Judge Molloy’s decision as an opportunity for Congress to amend what the MWGA sees as the real obstacle to proper animal and land management on both the federal and state level.  This is the ability of so-called environmental groups to recover the legal costs of, and to be paid for, the lawsuits they file against federal agencies under the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA).  The EAJA was established by Congress to ensure that individuals, small businesses, and public interest groups with limited financial resources could afford to stop unreasonable governmental actions in Court.  Unfortunately, however, some environmental groups are abusing the intent of the EAJA by using this law as a source of income.  At least one study shows that over the last 15 years, a small number of environmental groups have sued the federal government thousands of times and then use the EAJA to force the American taxpayer to pay them millions of dollars for filing these time-consuming, and costly lawsuits — lawsuits which have the effect of taking land and animal management out of the hands of state and federal agencies and putting such management decisions in the hands of federal judges.   MWGA is confident that the plaintiff environmental organizations involved in the current wolf delisting lawsuit will also ask Montana taxpayers to pay them their costs and attorney’s fees and will be awarded such money by the Court.  This is an abusive practice that Congress needs to stop immediately.


Finally, for what it is worth, MWGA points out that the Endangered Species

Act was enacted in 1973, the very year that gray wolves were placed under ESA protection.  In the year before, then President Nixon signed into law a bill that banned most pesticides and toxicants used for predator control.  In 1972, Montana sheep numbers were roughly one million head.  Today, sheep numbers in Montana are around 250,000.  With this tremendous drop in numbers over the last thirty years, had domestic sheep been a wild animal, domestic sheep would have been long ago declared “endangered” by some federal agency or environmental group.  It may be time for Montanans of all persuasions to think about the health of Montana’s agriculture sector and to advocate for policies that protect Montana’s number one economic generator.

When the gray wolf was reintroduced into Montana in 1994, the MWGA fought very hard against that reintroduction due to the known damage that the gray wolf would do to our industry and due to the unforeseen financial problems such reintroduction would cause to the people of Montana and to other forms of wildlife.  Yesterday’s court decision is just one example of the many problems caused by the decision to reintroduce gray wolves.  Though the MWGA recognizes that the gray wolf is now a permanent part of Montana’s landscape, the MWGA membership is hopeful that this decision presents an opportunity to revise laws that serve as the real obstacles to the promotion of healthy, vital wildlife populations and the sustainability of Montana’s tremendous agriculture and hunting heritages. 

 

Source:  Montana Wool Growers Association

Posted by Haylie Shipp

 

 

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