The wolf issue has become something of an environmental version of the television game show "Deal Or No Deal". And from the very start a lot of players in this extremely secretive mess have constantly wondered where the money could be found...what it takes to keep in flowing...and how to insure they get their share of the spoils. Now, here's the funny part, even though this all was supposed to have been about saving an animal listed under the protection of the "Endangered Species Act", it has absolutely nothing to do with saving wildlife. It's all about power and the money - and those who are benefiting the most will stop short of nothing to insure their coffers are stuffed full.
The key players on the money side of this game have been environental groups like the Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, and a dozen others, which have continued to keep the ESA protection of wolves well represented in U.S. District Court in Missoula, MT - where they have found themselves one extremely cooperative federal judge. However, this past week has been a bumpy go for this gang of environmental thugs. First, Earthjustice, the enviro legal firm which has repeatedly represented the coalition of so-called environmental organizations pulled out (Thursday, March 17). Then, the very next day a rift developed between those groups who have fought to keep wolves on the endangered species list - during a deal making with the Department of the Interior/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Ten of the organizations agreed to a proposal to de-list wolves in states with approved wolf management plans - which basically means just Idaho and Montana.
The organizations agreeing to the de-listing are: Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, and Wildlands Network (formerly Wildlands Project).
The organizations that did not agree to the de-listing are: Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds Project, the Humane Society of the United States, and Friends of the Clearwater. These groups have vowed to continue fighting wolf delisting.
Following is the Department of the Interior Press Release Issued on This "Settlement"...Be Sure to Read Follow Up Comments!
Interior Announces Proposed Settlement of Gray Wolf Lawsuit
Contact: Kendra Barkoff, DOI (202) 208 6416
Chris Tollefson, FWS (202) 247-7417
WASHINGTON, DC - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reached an agreement with the majority of plaintiffs, including Defenders of Wildlife, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, and eight other conservation organizations, to settle ongoing litigation over a Federal District Court`s 2010 decision to reinstate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for gray wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.
If approved by the court, the settlement offers a path for the Service to return management of the recovered wolf populations in Idaho and Montana to the States while the Service considers options for delisting gray wolves across the Rocky Mountain region, where population levels have returned to biologically recovered levels.
"For too long, management of wolves in this country has been caught up in controversy and litigation instead of rooted in science where it belongs. This proposed settlement provides a path forward to recognize the successful recovery of the gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains and to return its management to States and Tribes," said Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes.
"I am pleased that the negotiations resulted in this important agreement," said Acting Service Director Rowan Gould. "The proposed settlement has the potential to return management of wolves in Montana and Idaho to the states and tribes and will also enable the Fish and Wildlife Service to use our limited resources to address other species in need of recovery actions."
Under the terms of the settlement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has agreed to address the delisting of wolves in the region in the future as a distinct population segment, rather than on a state-by-state basis. The parties are requesting that the court allow the 2009 delisting to be reinstated in Montana and Idaho on an interim basis, in accordance with approved state management plans, until a full delisting can be completed for the northern Rocky Mountain wolf population. The parties are agreeing that they allow these steps to move forward, up to and including a potential delisting of Rocky Mountain wolves, without resorting to further litigation.
"I want to recognize the great work of Deputy Secretary Hayes, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the entire negotiating team, and all those who worked with us to find a common-sense way forward," said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
Separate negotiations are ongoing between the Service and the State of Wyoming in an effort to reach agreement on a management plan for wolves in that state. If a mutually acceptable management plan for wolves in Wyoming can be developed, then the Service will be able to proceed with delisting proceedings addressing wolves throughout the northern Rocky Mountains.
The delisting provided for under this agreement does not extend to the small wolf populations in eastern Oregon and Washington, or to Utah, where there are not believed to be any resident wolves. FWS intends to address the longer term status of wolves in Oregon, Washington, and Utah when it issues a new rule addressing status of wolves across the Northern Rocky Mountain region. FWS will work with state officials in Oregon, Washington and Utah in the meantime to address any wolf management issues and retains the option to consider reclassifying wolves from "endangered" to "threatened" in those states in order to provide more management flexibility.
The Service and the plaintiffs have agreed to take other actions that will clarify implementation of the ESA and ensure that a recovered wolf population continues to be sustainably managed under approved state management plans. Additional terms of the proposed agreement are available here.
The ESA provides a critical safety net for America`s native fish, wildlife and plants. This landmark conservation law has prevented the extinction of hundreds of imperiled species across the nation and promoted the recovery of many others.
LOBO WATCH and many LOBO WATCH supporters and followers, plus a number of those who work with this country's TRUE wildlife and conservation organizations feel this "agreement" between the two primary factions of the wolf issue, who combined have created such a mess, not to mention the devastating losses of other wildlife, are now coming to terms for one reason and one reason only - and that is to circumvent efforts in Congress to amend the Endgangered Species Act - to remove wolves from under ESA protection. That legislation is Senate Bill 249 (Orin Hatch - UT) and House Resolution 509 (Denny Rehberg - MT). It's no secret that the Department of the Interior has all too frequently used the ESA to shut down access to wild areas, while the ESA (and the Equal Access to Justice Act) has become the main "cash cow" for environmental groups. These two "sides" are far more alike than different, and they sure don't want Congress messing around with the power of the ESA - mostly for personal reasons.
"This settlement is an attempt to derail legislative changes to the ESA, and maintain the powers both sides possess to maximally influence any state decision. Both sides are afraid to loose power and are running scared!" says Dr. Val Geist, a wildlife ecologist with the University of Calgary.
The very first sentence of the joint Department of the Interior/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service release includes the wording "to settle ongoing litigation". No where in the release, or in the "Terms of Agreement" that I managed to find on the internet could I find anything detailing just what was in that "agreement" for the likes of Defenders of Wildlife...or the Center for Biological Diversity.
But, rest assured that there will very likely be a whole lot of zeros after the comma!
U.S. Representative Mike Simpson (R-ID), who managed to get the wolf issue included in a continuing resolution (H.R. 1) to keep Congress working in Washington D.C. in order to take care of unfinished business, has this to say about the deal making between the Department of the Interior and the pro-wolf environmental groups, "This settlement proposal makes it clear to me that those who have forced wolves back on the endangered species list realize that their position is not defensible. They also realize that if they continue to push to have wildlife management decisions made by the courts, Congress will step in. The House has already done so by including language in H.R. 1 to overturn Judge Molloy`s decision, and I will continue to push to have this measure signed into law."
More than ever, the sportsmen of this country need to put pressure on ALL of their elected officials in Washington to fully support Congressional legislation (S.249 and H.R.509) to remove the wolf from under the ESA umbrella. Likewise, our elected officials need to be more included anytime the Department of the Interior goes into closed meetings with environmental groups - especially since the wolf fiasco is the fault of each side that was there to reach an "agreement".
Since we started this piece with reference to a popular television show, let's end it the same way. When it comes to the Wolf War, we haven't seen anything yet. The current episodes of "Survivor" will pale in comparison to the challenges that lay ahead for those of us fighting the wolf issue each and every day. - Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH
More Than Ever - Plan To Attend The Wolf-Judge Molloy Protest Rally At The Missoula U.S. District Court On March 24th - Hopefully Some Will Carry Signs Proclaiming "NO DEAL!"
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