Nov 112014

Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, who represents environmental groups in the litigation that resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service reclaiming authority (unwillingly) over the gray wolf in Wyoming, wrote in the Casper Star-Tribune Sunday that the service and the state should "comprehensively address the weaknesses of Wyoming’s wolf management program that make it vulnerable to court reversal. Doing so would give the Wyoming Game and Fish Department the tools it needs to responsibly manage wolves. It would also ensure a secure future for a great American conservation success story."

Preso was taking aim at what he called a "troubling" comment by Fish and Wildlife Service Director Daniel Ashe. From the op-ed:

Arguing that Judge Jackson shouldn’t have returned the wolf to federal protection, Ashe recently said, “The judge took a small defect to make a large decision of vacating the rule.”

The fundamental issue of Wyoming’s failure to guarantee an adequate minimum population of wolves is hardly a “small defect.” But, even more important, the court didn’t subject many other aspects of Wyoming’s program to any scrutiny after it found that major fault.

It would be wrong to mistake that silence for assent. If the Fish and Wildlife Service believes that Wyoming can fix its program merely by writing a slightly more binding promise to maintain a minimum population, it is effectively betting that it can win on every other outstanding issue concerning Wyoming’s wolf management — even though the Service has never yet won a wolf delisting case.

Preso also said some have mischaracterized the judge's ruling as reflecting approval of the service's conclusion that the wolf has recovered in the Northern Rockies.

"[S]ome have claimed that the judge also admitted in her ruling that the wolf had recovered as a species even though she put it back under federal protection. That is not so," Preso wrote. "When Jackson’s ruling discussed the wolf’s recovery, it addressed only a specific scientific finding about wolf immigration and the amount of 'genetic exchange' among different populations the Fish and Wildlife Service had documented prior to the wolf’s delisting in 2012. Importantly, the judge did not address whether Wyoming’s management plan could sustain adequate wolf immigration in the future, which is also essential for any finding of recovery."

The full op-ed is here

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