Wolves are off the hunting and trapping menu in Wyoming, and back on the federal Endangered Species list, thanks to a ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson yesterday in lawsuits filed by The HSUS and several major environmental and conservation organizations. This is the second state hunting season on wolves cancelled in two weeks, with the recent announcement by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that it would forego a 2014 hunting season there, with two referendums blocking a hunt at least through the November election. The news from Michigan and Wyoming amounts to a spate of good news for wolves, who’ve been bludgeoned in the last two years by state fish and wildlife agencies and hunters and trappers. We hope the streak continues, especially with several decisions by voters and the federal courts looming ahead.
After more than 40 years of federal protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has spent the last several years trying to remove federal protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies and the Great Lakes regions. In response, states have moved swiftly to open trophy hunting and trapping seasons. The HSUS forestalled the hunting programs in the Great Lakes for several years, and The HSUS and a coalition of environmental groups did the same in the Northern Rockies.
But eventually Congress stepped in and mandated delisting of wolves in most of the Northern Rockies in 2011. Then the Service again delisted wolves in the Great Lakes and Wyoming in 2012. The problem is, in their haste to kill unprotected wolves, officials in these states have badly overreached, and made a series of vague and false promises of wolf conservation in order to convince the Fish and Wildlife Service to hand over management to state fish and game agencies.
In yesterday's ruling, Judge Jackson put a halt to this practice by holding that the Fish and Wildlife Service impermissibly relied on unenforceable promises made by the State of Wyoming that it would not allow sport hunting and other killing of wolves to drive the wolf population below a level minimally sufficient to ensure the species’ survival. Wyoming has consistently proven to be extremely hostile to wolves, subjecting them to virtually unrestricted hunting and trapping, and allowing them to be shot on sight throughout 80 percent of the state, even though there are only a few hundred wolves in the entire state.
This was an important win in the courts, putting a stop at least through the 2014 hunting season to Wyoming’s extreme anti-wolf policies. The HSUS also has a case pending that challenges the delisting of wolves in the Great Lakes, and we are anxiously awaiting that decision.
Meanwhile, HSUS and a coalition operating under the banner of Keep Michigan Wolves Protected qualified two referendums to stay wolf hunting in the state. As a result, there will be no wolf hunting season there in 2014. The Michigan legislature has passed an initiative, submitted by hunting groups, that could potentially allow the Natural Resources Commission to open a hunting season in 2015. But The HSUS and a coalition of other organizations are suing to nullify that law because it violates the state’s law on multiple subjects in a single proposal. That measure doesn’t just give the NRC authority to set a season on wolves and other protected species, but it gives away free hunting licenses to veterans and provides money for Asian carp control. Those last two elements are not controversial, and were clearly added to pull the wolf hunting measure over the finish line.
I’ve known all along that taking on the fight for wolves would be tough, essentially pitting The HSUS and its allies against a powerful alliance made up of the federal and state governments, the National Rifle Association, the Safari Club, and other trophy hunting and trapping interests. But wolves have been subjected to a revolting, sickening persecution during the last two years. It’s been largely unrestrained, and driven by hatred and false notions about these animals. Some group had to step into the breach, and that is your HSUS, unafraid to take on the toughest of fights and committed to getting tangible results for animals.
Paid for with regulated funds by the committee to Keep Michigan Wolves Protected, 5859 W. Saginaw Hwy. #273, Lansing, MI 48917