Wolf Killing Is Back On State Agendas

Congressmen try legislative end runs around court ban on hunting

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Since Earthjustice attorneys won a court decision in August ordering the federal government to once again extend Endangered Species Act protections to wolves in the northern Rockies, state governments have been busy trying to come up with ways to kill wolves anyway.

The court ruling meant that Idaho and Montana had to call off plans for wolf hunts this year. Montana tried changing the names of its hunt to "conservation hunt" in a bid to get federal blessing to kill endangered wolves. Idaho submitted its own wolf-killing proposal, which would remove all but a handful of wolves from Idaho’s upper Clearwater basin.

While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Montana’s unlawful ploy, it is still pondering Idaho’s plan. In another ominous development, Idaho recently announced it won’t lift a finger to monitor or enforce existing protections for wolves, including anti-poaching laws. At the same time, a handful of Congressmen have announced plans to introduce legislation that would categorically eliminate federal protections for wolves—a species whose near-extinction in the lower-48 states provided one of Congress’s motivations for adopting the Endangered Species Act in 1973.

These Congressional efforts threaten to undermine Act’s integrity as one of our nation’s strongest tools to protect species and ecosystems from human-caused destruction. It’s not clear when Congress will take up these measures nor how far they’re likely to go.

If Congress exempts wolves from the Esa, or if Idaho, Montana and Wyoming successfully pressure the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to once again strip wolves of protections, wolves will be "managed" by state governments that want to kill them.

John was Earthjustice’s Media Director and chief press wrangler from 2001 until 2013. He came to Earthjustice in 2001 to defend freshwaters and public land—and salmon.