Federal judge rules against wolf hunting in Wyoming

The Wisconsin Gazette

A federal judge on Sept. 23 reinstated federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming, rejecting the state’s “wolf-management” plan that allowed them to be hunted as unprotected predators.

“The court has ruled and Wyoming’s kill-on-sight approach to wolf management throughout much of the state must stop,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who added that the “ruling restores much-needed federal protection to wolves throughout Wyoming, which allowed killing along the borders of Yellowstone National Park and throughout national forest lands south of Jackson Hole where wolves were treated as vermin under state management. If Wyoming wants to resume management of wolves, it must develop a legitimate conservation plan that ensures a vibrant wolf population in the northern Rockies.”

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled in favor of national environmental groups that said protections were severely lacking for the wolf, for years considered an endangered species threatened with extinction. Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in the complaint.

The judge said that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was wrong to trust the state’s promises to protect at least 100 wolves outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Indian Reservation. Environmentalists have said that Wyoming law authorized unlimited wolf killing in a “predator” zone that extended throughout most of the state, and provided inadequate protection for wolves even where killing was regulated.

The judge ended both predatory and trophy hunting of wolves in Wyoming.

“The court affirmed that delisting gray wolves in Wyoming by the Obama administration was premature and a violation of federal law,” said Defenders of Wildlife president and CEO Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Any state that has a wolf-management plan that allows for unlimited wolf killing throughout most of the state should not be allowed to manage wolves. Wolves need to remain protected under the Endangered Species Act until the species is fully recovered. State laws and policies that treat wolves like vermin are as outdated and discredited today as they were a century ago.”

“We’re thrilled that protections for Wyoming’s fragile population of wolves have been restored,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. “With Wyoming allowing wolves to be shot on sight across more than 80 percent of the state, there is no way protections for wolves should have ever been removed.”

The state, which claims the wolf population is stable, seems likely to seek a stay and appeal to allow the wolf hunting to continue. The state took over wolf management in 2012, after the federal government ruled that wolves did not need protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Wisconsin also has authorized wolf hunts, as have Minnesota and other states. Michigan voters will cast ballots this year on whether to sanction hunting wolves, but state lawmakers already canceled wolf hunting for this year.