Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Will Judge Molloy Challenge Congress When It Comes To How Wolves Were Delisted For A 2011 Management Hunt?

Above, Scott Rockholm, of Save Western Wildlife, is being interviewed during a protest rally at the U.S. Dsitrict Court - Missoula courthouse back in March. JOIN US ON JULY 26TH...WE NEED SOME NUMBERS!

Back in April, President Barrack Obama signed H.R. 1473 into law. This legislation, known as the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriation Act of 2011, also contained a briefly worded rider which removes wolves in several states from the protection of the Endangered Species Act. And that has not set well with several pro-wolf environmental organizations, who are challenging the constitutionality of the manner in which Congress slipped this issue in among the 459 pages of the continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded, and working.

The wolf rider reads: "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. 15213 et seq.) without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance (including this 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."

Judge Donald Molloy, of the U.S. District Court in Missoula, MT, has accepted a lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity, and despite the wording "shall not be subject to judicial review" found in the wolf rider, it is now very apparent that this federal judge has decided to do just that. Many residents of the Northern Rockies now feel that this issue no longer has anything to do with establishing and maintaining a recovered wolf population, but rather it has become all about a federal judge making law instead of enforcing the law.

The lawsuit filed by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity seeks to determine the legality of adding the wolf rider to a budget continuing resolution. Their goal is to stop the wolf management (i.e. control) hunts in Montana and Idaho this year. Despite the fact that the number of wolves in these two states are now upwards of 10 to 12 times the recovered population goals established in the early 1990s Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan and the 1994 Environmental Impact Statement filed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, such environmental groups keep moving the goal post - and the over population of wolves is now making a severe negative impact on elk, moose, deer and other big game herds, with escalated depredation of livestock as well.

A large segment of those sportsmen and ranchers who have been fighting to gain control of wolf numbers now see Judge Molloy as the real threat. His decisions have stalled wolf control hunts, resulting in a tremendous loss of wildlife and making it more difficult for ranchers to raise livestock profitably. One such decision cancelled a much needed 2010 wolf hunt. Molloy found that Montana and Idaho could not conduct such a hunt, even though both states had approved wolf management plans, because Wyoming's plan had not been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Actually, the Wyoming plan had been approved by USFWS. However, Molloy did not agree with the manner in which the state intended to manage wolves in only the northwest corner, to insure the 100 wolves and 10 breeding pairs mandatory under the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan and the 1994 EIS. In the rest of Wyoming, wolves would be considered a predator, and could be shot on sight. Donald Molloy so harshly criticized the plan that USFWS turned around and disapproved how the state intended to manage wolf numbers. A couple of months after Molloy's decision, a federal court in Cheyenne, WY stated that USFWS had been wrong to reject the Wyoming Wolf Management Plan. Still, the 2010 wolf hunts did not take place in Montana and Idaho, and tens of thousands of big game animals were lost to a burgeoning wolf population.

Last month (June), Molloy received the briefs for the wolf rider lawsuit, and on Tuesday, July 26th, he will hear oral arguments by the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity, and by the U.S. Department of the Interior. In June, a dozen or so sportsman, conservation and ranching organizations filed to become interveners in this case, which Molloy denied. The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m., at the Russell Smith Federal Courthouse, 201 E. Broadway, Missoula, MT.

This could prove to be a "no win" case for this judge. Should he side with the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity, and rule that Congress did not have the constitutional right to add a wolf delisting rider to the budget continuing resolution, that could be the catalyst to push Congress to amend the ESA, returning wolf management to every state. Should Molloy decide in favor of the rider being added, Montana and Idaho will conduct wolf control hunts this fall and winter - on top of which Congress could very likely still act to amend the ESA.

That same day, sportsmen groups from the Northern Rockies are organizing a wolf protest on the sidewalks around the courthouse, to show support for wolf control, and calling for an end to wildlife management being decided by an extremely biased federal judge. The rally will begin at 9 a.m. and run until the hearing has ended. There's sure to be some extremely colorful protest signs being carried that day. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH

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