Thursday, April 29, 2010

At the crossroads

Last May, the Obama administration removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana, marking the most significant development since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho 14 years prior. And, as expected, it prompted a federal lawsuit. Today, that case is before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, and represents a crossroads for wolves in Montana. The plaintiffs, a coalition of environmental groups, say the federal government made weak demands when handing management over to Montana and Idaho, allowing the states to cut their wolf populations to as few as 100 and cause a population collapse. Many biologists involved in the reintroduction of wolves scoff at the notion that the gray wolf is still endangered in the region. "The population is in great shape," said Ed Bangs, wolf recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "You can't do any better." "If this ain't wolf recovery, I don't know what is," said Mike Phillips, who helped with the Yellowstone reintroduction as a federal biologist and now works for Ted Turner. However, Phillips said, there is more at play than wolf numbers. There is also the question of laws. Specifically, Judge Molloy in a preliminary ruling questioned whether it was legal for the Fish and Wildlife Service to carve Wyoming out of the delisting, suggesting that using a state line to manage wolves may be arbitrary. Excluding Wyoming is "a fine idea," Phillips said. "I kind of like it and I understand it, but (Fish and Wildlife Service's) own policies don't allow them to do it. You can't use state boundaries as a boundary for different management schemes."...more

No comments: