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Budget rider would lift wolf protections in northern Rockies

Wolves-dutcher 2 

When Congress passes the federal budget, it’s increasingly likely lawmakers will also be sealing the fate of wolves in the northern Rockies. An unrelated rider quietly attached by legislators from Montana and Idaho to the crucial spending compromise would for the first time in history allow Congress to cancel federal protections for an endangered species.

The recovery of wolves near Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and the surrounding ranchlands has been fought out in the courts for years. But never has the controversy come so close to a simple gunshot to the head as this week.

Wolves-dutcher Not only is the budget rider a near done-deal,  requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah, but a federal judge in Montana over the weekend rejected a proposed settlement that might have provided the only momentum against a congressional coup de grace.

“This creates a very dangerous precedent for the Endangered Species Act,” said Josh Mogerman, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.

“For the first time in history, Congress is removing a species … from the Endangered Species Act based on political, rather than biological, judgments,” the public interest law firm, Earthjustice, said in a statement.

The rider attached by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) as part of the budget compromise -- scheduled to be voted on by the end of the week -- would require federal wildlife managers to go forward with a 2009 Fish and Wildlife Service plan to de-list wolves not only in Montana and Idaho, but also in portions of Washington, Oregon and Utah.

Both Washington and Oregon have small, fledgling wolf populations that conservationists fear could be quickly wiped out if hunting, baiting and trapping of wolves resumes.

That earlier plan was going to leave wolves under federal protection in Wyoming, because of concerns that the state’s shoot-on-sight philosophy, in which wolves would be designated as predators in all but the northwest corner of the state,  was not a good bet for guaranteeing their recovery.

A federal judge in Montana threw out the plan, saying the government couldn’t de-list wolves in some states and leave them protected in Wyoming. But the budget rider essentially orders the government to do just that -- and also decrees there will be no more second-guessing of the issue in the courts.

Wyoming doesn’t get an immediate free pass on wolves, but the legislation does require that federal managers give deference to a finding by a federal judge in Wyoming in November that found there was no reason to reject that state’s wolf management plan simply because it considers wolves as predators in most parts of the state.

New talks are under way now between the Fish and Wildlife Service and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who took office in January.

Wolf advocates have argued that more wolves, spread out over a greater range, with stronger scientific oversight, are needed before full de-listing.

While wolves were all but wiped out in most parts of the continental U.S. by the mid-20th century, the $35-million reintroduction program since 1995 has led to a population of about 1,700 wolves across an ever-expanding range in the northern Rockies, though poaching, harsh living conditions and killing to avoid conflicts with livestock have taken a big toll.

Ranch owners and hunters in Montana and Idaho. who are concerned that increasing numbers of wolves are having a devastating impact on sheep and elk, say there have been more than enough studies and court cases -- it’s time, they say, to put states back in charge of wildlife.

“Right now, Montana’s wolf population is out of balance and this provision will get us back on the responsible path with state management. Wolves have recovered in the northern Rockies,” Tester, who is chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus, said in a statement.

“By untying the hands of the Montana biologists who know how to keep the proper balance, we will restore healthy wildlife populations and we will protect livestock. This provision is best for our wildlife, our livestock and for wolves themselves.”

In Idaho, where alarm over wolves is substantial, the state Legislature last week declared a wolf “state of emergency” that allows Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter to enlist local law enforcement to kill wolves that are threatening people, livestock or other wildlife. Idaho residents testified that citizens feel threatened by ever-larger numbers of increasingly fearless wolves, though there have been no cases of wolves attacking humans in the region.

“The Idaho Legislature finds and declares that the state's citizens, businesses, hunting, tourism and agricultural industries, private property and wildlife, are immediately and continuously threatened and harmed by the sustained presence and growing population of Canadian gray wolves in the state of Idaho,” the legislation said.

Ironically, many of the parties who have fought longest over wolf reintroduction this month were on the verge of a settlement that might have ended the protracted court fights.

Ten conservation groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service agreed in March to proceed with de-listing of the wolves in Idaho and Montana, so long as a scientific panel was set up to examine the need to set a higher bar for recovering the wolves. It would have left in place federal protection for the wolves in Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and Utah, where they are considered most vulnerable.

All but four of the 14 conservation groups battling to protect the wolves in court had agreed to the settlement, reasoning that it could avert the even greater threat of Congress stepping in and gutting the Endangered Species Act.

But U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled over the weekend that he had no authority to enact the settlement, both in deference to federal law and to four other conservation groups who considered it a sell-out. Download Judge Molloy ruling.

And what wolf advocates consider the worst-case scenario -- a threat to both wolves and the Endangered Species Act itself -- now appears all but certain. Tinkering with the delicate compromise that averted a shutdown of the federal government last week will meet stiff resistance.

“There’s no doubt about it: Wolves were gut-shot over the weekend by Congress and the administration,” Louisa Willcox, the NRDC’s senior wildlife advocate in Montana, wrote in a commentary.

Mogerman said the rider could mean threats to additional species in the future. "There's a process in place for dealing with these issues in the courts. But by Congress acting, it's just a completely different animal," he said. "You look down the [Endangered Species Act], you see critter after critter and plant after plant that are probably inconvenient to special interests all over the  country. And what [they] have done is opened the door to removing plants and animals from the ESA by whim, rather than science."

Yet Tester said the proposed legislation will provide a way forward where none previously existed.

"This wolf fix isn't about one party's agenda," the congressman said in a statement. "It's about what's right for Montana and the West, which is why I've been working so hard to get this solution passed, and why it has support from all sides."


Packs of politicians take aim at wolf protections

Judge allows gray wolf hunt to proceed in Idaho and Montana

Montana wolf hunt is stalked by controversy

-- Kim Murphy

Photos: Wolves from the Northern Rockies, part of a photo exhibition sponsored by U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and the Idaho-based organization Living With Wolves, which has lobbied for continued protections for wolves and produced a new report on the northern Rockies reintroduction, Wolves at a Crossroads. The exhibit runs April 11-15 at the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda in Washington, D.C. Credit: Jim Dutcher of Living With Wolves.

Comments () | Archives (43)

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Wolf numbers have tripled their target numbers in this recovery area.It is past time for Idaho,Wyoming,and Montana to assume control of this wildlife resource.Hunting and trapping seasons need to be initiated to reduce nuisance complaints and big game predation.New rules need to be put in place in Oregon,Washington,Utah,and Colorado,the wolves are now there and regulations need to be put in to avoid obvious conflicts.Let's be proactive and stay ahead of past problems,we can learn from past mistakes.This program has been a success,now let's move on and manage a great resource wisely.Let all American's enjoy this magnificent animal in the way we choose to.We taxpayers have paid dearly,now is the time to enjoy this great triumph for us all.

sell their soul not sole..............

These lame overreaching politicians have no right to make political decisions on scientific issues regarding the endangered species act. These dummies make me sick, they would sell their sole for votes and campaign contributions.

Endangered species must be protected like wolves. These wolves though dangerous should be preserved for they are very needed for the next generation. I'll share to you this from Hummel and Pettigrew state, “Top predators are among the most outstanding achievements of wilderness, evolving over hundreds of centuries to preside at the top of the natural food chain. Now we challenge Canadians to wake up in time to make sure such outstanding achievements stay with us”. (1) “If we’re not saving top predators, we’re not saving true wilderness. And if we are not saving true wilderness, we will not save top predators” (1)

The most outrageous part is that congress thinks that they are qualified to make these kinds of decisions. They aren't. This was a politically, not scientifically motivated delisting because a species was inconveniencing some people Tester wanted to vote for him. Even more outrageous is that congress felt that it could hobble the judiciary from performing its checks and balances.

This is about wolves, but it's really about massive, unprecedented congressional overreach. I hope everyone from all political backgrounds will protest this maneuver loudly, and get science back into wildlife management decisions.

Let me get this straight. The Federal Government doesn't have enough money to help children, seniors, educated the young etc. etc.. But it does have the money to eliminate wolfs and wild horses. If we leave them alone as nature intended the we can find many more good uses for our tax dollars. How about it folks?

Excellent points Sheryl. Unfortunately hunters prefer to make up their own statistics to justify killing.
The fact there is a show called Dead Dog Walkin' about hunting predators shows there are plenty of crazies out there who live to put on the cammy's and skulk around the woods with their weapons......
Someone needs to send them to Iraq where they can play war with a target that can shoot back.

I am a moderate democrat for the record. I am a supporter
of the environment and wildlife. The reason that a dominant
predator was brought back into Yellowstone was because the
deer and elk populations are literally eating away any and all
vegitation in the national parks. The deer and elk populations
need to be kept under control, and nature's way of doing this
is by natural predators keeping the elk and deer populations
down at reasonable numbers so the natural environment has
a chance to survive. And that leaves vegitation for all the
other animals that might need to eat also. The wolf needs to
be protected until cowboys in Wyoming realize that
wolves are necessary and not a threat. The same thing
applies to the cougar that was reintroduced in Zion National
Park to keep the elk population down at reasonable numbers.
If any of my friends from the far left have any questions,
please visit with my far-left liberal friends in Springdale, UT
that can clarify why this is necessary to protect the habitat.

Chris from Kootenai County:

I too am from Idaho. I live in the Wood River Valley and we have wolves here, too. They are not a problem. Let's get some facts right, shall we?

When Idaho and Montana had a legal hunt and approximately 20% of the wolves were killed in one hunting season, the largest of all of those wolves was 127 lbs and the average weighed less than 100 lbs – not the 140-190 lb. animals you are claiming.

The official report from those doing the monitoring (the Nez Perce Tribe with the Idaho Fish and Game) says 705 wolves live in Idaho, a 19% decline from last year's population. Imagine the uproar if the elk population declined 19% in one year across the state.

Wolf packs defend and maintain large territories. It is a known biological impossibility that four packs would live "within minutes of" you.

Your claim of the "wrong wolf" was defeated years ago. All of the biologists working in wolf recovery have made it clear there is nothing legitimate to substantiate that intentionally misleading argument. This wolf does belong here, in Idaho.

Only humans kill for fun. Wolves will sometimes kill more than they can eat in one meal. But many studies show that they will always return to a kill for future meals. Winter kills have been returned to for weeks and months ensuring survival through the most challenging months of the year. Wolves often are fatally wounded during a hunt. It is a dangerous prospect for them. They don't have the strength to employ an instant kill method like bears and cougars do. Therefore they can get mortally kicked or gored. Nature doesn't work in a way where animals take those chances. It is called survival of the fittest. Killing for sport is another misleading "fact."

Decimating wildlife? Moose live in Canada too. So do elk. They have been living there with a healthy wolf population for a very long time. The elk population, the leading source of food for wolves, has been growing in the three states where wolves live for years. Since last year, the three state populations have grown from 350,000 elk to 371,000 elk.

These numbers have been made public by The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, The Idaho Fish and Game, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, and Wyoming Game and Fish. And yet people are worried about 705 wolves in Idaho – the same state with 20,000 bears, 3,000 cougars and 50,000 coyotes.

There are regions where elk populations have declined, but the overall population where wolves live is a good indicator of the health of the elk population, not isolated examples of decline.

Wolves are nothing more than wild dogs who wantonly kill. They don't kill just to eat like mountain lions and such. They kill to kill. check out
We have few elk any more where we live in the Idaho mountains. The elk calf success numbers are dismal.

Humans are killing all of the animals or taking their habitat all over the world. Soon we will only see these animals in zoos. Elephants, orangutans, tigers, lions, and wolves.

One day a predator will show up that will do the same to us as we are doing to other creatures. It will be a microscopic virus, and it will not ask for permission before it infects most of us. And your guns and knives will not defend you against it.

It happened in 1917, and it will happen again.

Then the other animals will have a chance again.

Not one Liberal/Progressive hack that has posted here has bothered to reseacrh what the ranchers/farmers in both Idaho and Montana have had to endure. That is the "Progressive Way"-- feel good but live like an ostrich with your ass hanging in the air... These are predators; aggressive, brutal beasts that hunt in packs that maim and destroy.

I guess hunting dollars trump common sense in the U.S. too. The embarassment of being Canadian, with the coyote/wolf kill contests is not unique I see.
With shows being allowed to air on Sportsman Channel like "Dead Dog Walking", I fear this is only creating a whole new generation of sport killers. They are growing up feeling it is alright, and that to kill for pure pleasure is an acceptable past time.
That along with the lax gun laws, especially in the U.S. ( and here too if the Conseravtives have their way )is a recipe for disaster.
Sadly, the future for this world and it's wildlife is not looking good. I am truly ashamed to be human.

Listen closely, and you'll hear the GOP argument that God has communicated directly to them His Imperative that they eliminate seventy five percent of the earth's species, because, after all, the number we have today could never have fit on Noah's Ark. Anything more is just a waste of good fur and meat.

What the hell do endangered wolves have to do with keeping the government open or not.

Since the Republican dominated Supreme Court made it legal to buy politicians, they're being bought right and left.

Average Americans, you're screwed...

The budget wouldn't be in this mess if we had good leadership. The Bush era was horrible. Clinton left us with a surplus in the deficit and now poor Obama has to clean it all up. Wolves really hurting the budget? I think it's all the free programs. That is what's hurting this country. I'm down for helping people when they so need it. But let's empower them with skills and confidence to go out and be productive. The money we spend on prisons alone would fix the deficit. The worst offenders should be in but the rest require a degree of them instead of fighting and doing worse in prison. Can we all say Rehabilitation...A better society.Invest in our youth the leaders of tomorrow.

I see many comments about too many of this animal, too little of that animal. I think the biggest problem of all is, too many of us, everywhere. We are taking way too much habitat away from wildlife. We are creating the imbalance, not the animals.

Il am french, Y love the wolfs. God save the wolfs.

Le loup a le droit de vivre libre et heureux. S'il vous plait donnez lui une chance.

funny Americans ? No, it's realy a shame. Here in europe we have no problems to protect wolves even in much more poorer countries.

Wolves are necessary. It is Republicans that should not be protected from the villagers with pitchforks and torches,

So now the wolf is suddenly the greatest threat to civilization known to man. How many people in Idaho did the wolves kill last year? And how many people were killed by cars? Guns? Cigarettes? Where's the hysterical fear of the things that are actually harming people?

You've got to love these Western welfare states that moan and complain about the federal government telling them what to do, then immediately turn around and use the federal government to tell other people what to do. Hypocrites much?

Nothing on Earth kills like a human. Voracious, never failing in appetite, with no ability to see the cumulative effects of destroying apex predators whom, while competing, help keep the entire chain of animals in balance.
Humans are a dangerous combination of destructive capabilities and stupidity.

I know we need Federal Land to protect Wolves. This is a very complicated story, but if we can raise a few wolves at a Zoo and breed them, or develop a wolf farm in the wild. I think it a good idea to help them populate. I don't they they are immediately dangerous either unless threatened and usually mind their own business. It is sad that so many were killed. Now more than ever we sould see that wolves are a species we need to keep, and a symbol in our United States for schools, and even the beauty of the Great Outdoors like the Eagle, or strong symbol of the Native Americans.

These riders and tag ons are corrupt. This is not how democracy or any civilized government should be run. Mafia tactics - so special interests win and a species is removed. Which is the native species byt the way - cows and sheep or wolves? The ranchers get enough from the government, by living cheap on Federal land.

"Under the revised 10(j) rule, livestock operators were given the option to kill
wolves harassing livestock (previously, lethal removal was only allowed when wolves were observed actually attacking livestock). Fourteen wolves have been killed under provisions of the revised 10(j) rule since 2005."

what the heck is idaho so worried about if you are allowed to shoot wolves who attack your cattle? are you angry that you aren't allowed to then track the varments and kill the rest of their families and offspring? as for the nation? lets take a look:

"Wolf Predation Plays Small Role in Livestock Losses in 2005

In the continental U.S., health issues such as respiratory problems, digestive problems, calving complications and disease were overwhelmingly the most significant causes of cattle death in 2005.
Only 0.11% of all cattle losses were due to wolf predation in 2005.
Coyotes killed more than 22 times more cattle than wolves killed that year.
Domestic dogs killed almost 5 times as many cattle, and vultures killed almost twice as many cattle as wolves did in 2005.
Theft was responsible for almost 5 times as many cattle losses as were lost by wolf predation.
Predation by coyotes was the largest cause of sheep loss in 2005, accounting for 23% of all losses, followed by health problems & weather-related issues.
In states with wolf populations, an average of less than 2.5% of sheep loss was due to predation by wolves in 2005."

Of course the national population has grown since, but by how much? Well they use a mathematical equation to figure that out. In Idaho alone, the population has almost doubled since 2005. But i think if that wee .11 percent were to double, triple or even quadriffle, the ranchers and their special interests will still be making profit. Remember, you can still defend your livestock fellas, you just aren't allowed to kill pups by gassing their dens anymore. aw, so sorry.

Lively-hood should never be confused with public safety. It's a fear tactic used by the rich. I feel if Idaho wants to kill the wolves so bad, they should not be subsidized for each head of cattle killed by a wolf attack. (oh, you didn't know that? they get paid for dead cows. Makes it worth it to convince everyone that any predation toward ones cattle was from said wolves).

What i can't fathom is why politics is now defining an endangered species rather than environmental impact. In the 70s the biggest threat to cattle were ufo/cia black ops helicopter/ritualistic mutilations. It took years for the cattlemen to convince the government to take them seriously on the matter. This was over 137 head of cattle nationwide, mutilated, out of over 30,000 that died of natural causes, disease, predation, etc. during the same time period. Investigations by the FBI were inconclusive but had proved that some ranchers were faking claims to amplify public awareness of their "plight."

The same exaggerated victimization and theatrics to garner sympathy is only working today due to special interests that have no problem with lying to sway public opinion. I sincerely wish all cattle ranchers good luck with their fight to protect their herds, but you will never be conservationists. Your opinion of how to manage wolf populations is biased, and should not have weight when confronting an endangered species. Thank you,

Will B.

we can send an airborne drone, to send a missile, that will snuggle up under your blanket and kiss you before it destroys a whole city block, and yet - somehow - it's easier to kill a bunch of endangered animals than to keep them out of your yard?

I'm pretty sure wolves predate upon moose, so not sure why we're shocked moose populations have decreased. They'll eat other things on the hoof, including sheep and cows and deer, as well as domesticated pets and possibly the odd stupid human.

That's what wolves do.

The issue is a fight b/t where people and their livestock want to be, and where indigenous animals want to be. I come from a ranching/farming family, 120+ years living on the land in Eastern WA and ID, and on behalf of my family: we've lost a few head here and there over the past 3 decades, but nothing compares to the few times we've heard the distant howls of the former top predator (it's worthy of waking everyone up in the middle of the night to go outside and listen).

I would surely feel differently if they were destroying out herds, but losing a few calves/lambs to natural causes is called NATURE and a lot more than wolves kill babies. If we we're out on the ranch and came across a wolf, it'll get shot (or at least shot AT). But we have a healthy respect for those big canines and don't wish to wholesale slaughter them.

On one hand you have PETA and on the other you have Palin. Sad we can't find a middle ground.

Want to take a look at one of these animals? Here you go,,,,

Hmm, nothing like those cute little wolves in the stock-image photo for the article, huh?

Oh, and 'dkward ', if that is truly your belief, do us all a favor. Parasites need to be wiped out. Charity starts at home, right?

For those LA times, local readers, who comment about this article, but have little knowledge about the subject, I'll try to enlighten you.
YES! the wolves are a HUGE problem! They are estimating something like 700 wolves in Idaho. Ha! I know of 4 packs within minutes of me, and I'm in a populated area. There are probably 700 in Kootenai and Shoshone county alone.
These wolves ARE decimating livestock, but mostly decimating the natural wildlife.
I have had 4 wolves as pets, I love wolves, and have a very close bond with them. The problem here is, they reintroduced the wrong wolf. The species of gray wolf they brought, does not belong here. These are 140-190 pound animals, that not only kill to eat, but kill for fun. They will take down half a herd, and not eat a bite. They are truly decimating the local wildlife. We have moose hanging around near downtown, and at rest stops along I-90. These Moose belong out in the forest, not cringing in the city.

Again, its the wrong animal, it DOES NOT BELONG HERE. The original wolves who lived in this area, were far smaller, and more docile. This would be similar to releasing Leopards into Griffith park. after the Cougars were wiped out. You would obviously have issues, and people would complain. Hell, I grew up in LA, and you folks bitch about the tiny native cougars all the time! These things are little more than large bobcats.

Too bad so many so-called wildlife proponents have so little knowledge of actual wildlife. It's nice to think you know, while commenting from a patio in Playa Del Rey, or from a cottage in Silverlake, but you have no clue.

Kootenai County, Idaho

Wolves do not attack humans.

Since when do we as residents of Los Angeles have the right to tell people living in Montana, Wyoming or Idaho how to run their state? You want to stop buying their beef? How about they stop growing your soy beans?

S Williamson wrote:

"We used to see many mother moose with her calves, and the last two summers I have barely seen any.....Locals tell me the wolves are slaughtering moose and elk calves in alarming numbers."

I'm sorry, this is an unsubstantiated anecdote. There is no shortage of moose in the Tetons because of wolves. Although numbers have been in decline, it's a decline that started BEFORE wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone.

In fact, there were too many moose, damaging groves of cottonwoods, aspens and willows, and wiping out bird populations.

A variety of explanations have been suggested for the decline of moose, including predation (including grizzlies), hunting, relocation, etc. And moose were figuring out the danger of grizzlies before the introduction of wolves. Moose are smart, and they know what bears small like: I've seen a moose and its calf on the back lawn of the Jackson Lake Lodge, while a grizzly prowled for food in the willows beyond.

I've traveled to the Tetons at least once for more than 20 years. I have never heard reports from a local that wolves are the main reason moose are in decline.

The decline of moose is not precipitous, and it's bringing back some birds and tress. Balance in nature is being restored.

I have been spending summers in the Teton area of Idaho and Wyoming the last ten years and have seen first hand the numbers of moose shrink. We used to see many mother moose with her calves, and the last two summers I have barely seen any! Locals tell me the wolves are slaughtering moose and elk calves in alarming numbers. The moose have figured out that hanging out near humans actually keeps the elusive wolves at bay so the moose literally congregate near highways! Great for the wildlife sightseers, not so good for the moose. Soon the moose will be the endangered species in the Teton National forests, unless action is taken to control the wolves.

If we ate less meat, we'll be fighting those ranchers where it hurts - in their pockets. That's probably the only way to protect the wolves. Meat industry is hurting the environment in so many ways.

To the genius who brought forth the idea of showing a "bloody-muzzled" wolf chewing on a freshly killed moose: What is the point? That is what they do, that is a natural thing that happens. Is it natural to slaughter them because they do such a thing? Is it a contest between wolves and man for what? Moose and other wild animals?

If the ranchers are "scared" of the wolves, then they need to leave rural areas and move to the city. The wolves belong there, they lived there long before humans did. The very fact that we are discussing allowing wolves to harmed only shows how weak humans are. Humans are nothing more then parasites on the earth.

Nature is delicaite. The wolves reintroduction has improved the water quality. How, because the elk and deer fear them and do not eat all the vegetation by the streams, that filter the water. They only get a drink and move quickly away

How about we lift protection on our urban wolves too, otherwise known as "at risk" youth? Concealed carry, baby!

The idea here is to be responsible and not contribute deliberately to the extinction of a species.

TO: @davecurtice ... Or maybe a photo of a hunter with his bloody field knife and scoped rifle and GPS and he's squatting in his camo overalls next to a freshly killed and gutted moose? Yeee-ah! Gotta kilt them elk and moose before them wolves do!!

Good to know, but definitely not a dis-passionate, balanced look at this issue.

God damn I hate the government sometimes.

Ooo, aren't the canines cute and cuddly! This is supposedly a news article, not an editorial, so for balance how about including a photo of bloody-muzzled wolves chowing on a freshly killed moose?


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