Nov 142014

Environmental groups are suing the Bureau of Land Management over approval of a “predator derby” on 3.1 million acres of BLM lands in Idaho (Defenders of Wildlife v. Kraayenbrink, 14-487, D. Id.).

The agency’s Environmental Assessment, Finding of No Significant Impact and Decision Record “rely on numerous factual and legal misstatements, omissions, and unwarranted assumptions to downplay potentially significant adverse impacts to wildlife populations, recreational use, [Wilderness Study Areas], and other environmental values,” the complaint says.

Approval of the derby is “directly contrary to the federal government’s wolf reintroduction efforts,” the suit says. “[U]p to 500 entrants will compete over a three-day period each winter – starting on January 2, 2015 – to see who can kill the most and largest wolves and coyotes, and win cash and prizes.” The lawsuit seeks to have the EA/FONSI and decision record vacated and reversed.

In addition to Defenders, other plaintiffs are the Center for Biological Diversity, Project Coyote and Western Watersheds Project.

“We are aware of the social controversy regarding the event,” said Joe Kraayenbrink, BLM’s Idaho Falls District Manager. “However, from our analysis, we could not find significant conflicts with other environmental resources that would prohibit the competitive event from occurring.”

Unless stopped by the court, the derby will take place on about 3.1 million acres of land managed by the Challis, Salmon, and Upper Snake Field Offices of BLM’s Idaho Falls District. “For the purposes of the competition, predators include a variety of species, including, wolves, coyotes, weasels, skunks, jackrabbits, raccoons, and starlings,” BLM’s EA says.

“Participants will bring their harvested predators to a location on private property within Salmon, where they will compete on a point system based on the number and types of predators harvested,” the EA says.

The event promoter is Idaho for Wildlife, which states on its website that its mission is “to protect Idaho’s hunting and fishing heritage. To fight against all legal and legislative attempts by the animal rights and anti-gun organizations who are trying to take away our rights and freedoms under the constitution of the United States of America. To hold all Government and State Agencies who are stewards of our Wildlife accountable and ensure that science is used as the primary role four our Wildlife management.”

Press release on lawsuit

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

Nov 062014

From FR notice, Nov. 6, 2014 

View from Grand Canyon Lodge (North Rim) NPS photo by Jessica Pope

“On October 6, 2014, a suspected gray wolf was seen wandering in the area of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Deer hunting season is beginning in this area of Arizona, and it is believed that the wolf may be in danger of possible harm and could accidentally be shot either as a result of misunderstanding of status or misidentification. We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have, under an Endangered Species Act (ESA) permit, authorized qualified researchers to capture, draw blood, and possibly affix a brightly colored GPS radio collar on the suspect wolf and release it back into the general area where it was captured. It is essential for its safety to conduct these actions.”

. . .

“Without being able to trap and identify the animal, it is unknown as to whether it is a gray wolf or some type of wolf-dog hybrid.”

Federal Register | Emergency Exemption; Issuance of Emergency Permit To Capture a Suspected Gray Wolf in the Area of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Arizona. (same as link above)

Wolves in Wyoming back on the list

 Posted by on September 24, 2014
Sep 242014

Gray wolves in Wyoming are back on the endangered species list after a federal judge in Washington, D.C., said the Fish and Wildlife Service could not “rely on nonbinding and unenforceable representations when it concluded that the state’s plan was adequate to ensure that the state will in fact maintain the necessary number of breeding pairs and individual wolves” (Defenders of Wildlife v. Jewell, 12-1833 ABJ, D.D.C.).

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson’s opinion

Said Jackson:

“This opinion does not go so far as to hold that the FWS may not ever consider nonbinding statements as part of the mix when assessing the adequacy of a set of regulatory mechanisms as a whole; it finds that it was unreasonable in this instance for FWS to determine that it was necessary for Wyoming to manage for more than ten breeding pairs and 100 wolves as a condition for delisting but then accept a plan that did not commit to that.”

Earthjustice, et al. press release on decision

More coming on this story…

Excerpts from opinion:

Since the decision to delist is expressly premised on the state’s intention to manage to maintain a buffer above 10/100, the next question for the Court to resolve is whether it was proper for FWS to rely on nonbinding and unenforceable representations when it concluded that the state’s plan was adequate to ensure that the state will in fact maintain the necessary number of breeding pairs and individual wolves.

In this case, the agency did not merely consider the nonbinding statements in the Addendum as one aspect of the state’s overall regulatory scheme: two out of five of the original peer reviewers found the regulatory mechanisms to be inadequate in the absence of a buffer, and the Addendum was submitted by the state in response. The record reflects that FWS specifically relied on the representations in the Addendum as the basis for its conclusion that Wyoming would do what the agency had determined that it must do: manage above the 10/100 minimum. The Court finds that under those circumstances, the reliance on mere assurances was inappropriate, and it rendered the FWS decision arbitrary and capricious. This opinion does not go so far as to hold that the FWS may not ever consider nonbinding statements as part of the mix when assessing the adequacy of a set of regulatory mechanisms as a whole; it finds that it was unreasonable in this instance for FWS to determine that it was necessary for Wyoming to manage for more than ten breeding pairs and 100 wolves as a condition for delisting but then accept a plan that did not commit to that. See Colorado River Cutthroat Trout v. Salazar, 898 F. Supp. 2d 191, 207–08 (D.D.C. 2012) (“while the FWS cannot rely on promised and unenforceable conservation agreements in evaluating regulatory mechanisms . . . its consideration of the Conservation Strategy as part of its overall assessment of ongoing management practices is not inappropriate.”). Accordingly, the Court holds that the Service’s determination that Wyoming’s regulatory scheme was adequate under the ESA was arbitrary and capricious.

Footnote 8: In Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Inc., v. Servheen, 665 F. 3d 1015, 1030–31 (9th. Cir. 2011), the plaintiffs raised concerns similar to those here that the Service had relied upon too many measures that were not legally binding when delisting the grizzly bear. But the court declined to reach the question of whether a voluntary, unenforceable measure could constitute a “regulatory mechanism” under §1533(a)(1)(D); instead it ruled that even if the Service’s consideration of the voluntary and unenforceable components of the multi-state conservation plan was error, the determination could be upheld based upon legally binding components alone. That option is not available here since the delisting decision depends expressly upon the state’s commitment to manage above the 10/100 minimum number.


Wyoming wolf delisting challenged in federal court (EJ release, 12/17/13)

FWS gray wolf page

Service Declares Wyoming Gray Wolf Recovered Under the ESA and Returns Management Authority to the State (8/31/2012)

Jul 292014

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says it won’t kill wolves in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness on the Payette National Forest.

Western Watersheds Project, which has sued IDFG over its plans, announced the development today. Jeff Gould, chief of the department’s wildlife bureau, made the commitment in a declaration filed in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Maughan v. Vilsack, 14-35043).

“The lawsuit already halted last winter’s operations in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, but the agencies had intended to resume this year,” WWP said.

“Wiping out two wolf packs without any public participation or environmental review violated the management principles of the Wilderness Act and the National Forest Management Act,” WWP said earlier this year, when the hunt was first stopped. “The IDFG was using Forest Service cabins as a base camp for the extermination efforts.”

IDFG “claimed that the Golden Pack and the Monumental Pack were reducing elk populations to the detriment of human hunting,” WWP said.

In addition to WWP, plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity and Wilderness Watch.


Feb 072014

The Fish and Wildlife Service plans to reopen the comment period on its proposal to delist the gray wolf throughout the lower 48 states, following release today of a review that says FWS didn’t use the best scientific information available.

The “key conclusions” from the report by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis:

  • There was unanimity among the panelists that, although there was much good scientific work in the Proposed Rule, the rule is heavily dependent upon the analysis of Chambers et al. 
  • Some reviewers also noted a lack of appropriate use of the literature on species level taxonomy 
  • There was unanimity among the panelists that Chambers et al was not universally accepted and
  • that the issue was ‘not settled’. The issues raised by Chambers et al could be definitively answered relatively soon.
  • There was unanimity among the panel that the rule does not currently represent the ‘best available science’
  • Neither the panel as a whole, not any of its members in their individual reviews, made any management or policy recommendations. 

The comment period will be reopened until midnight, March 27. (FWS press release)

Sep 112012

Eight other groups have also said they will sue over the delisting of the gray wolf in Wyoming.

WildEarth Guardians,  Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Biodiversity Conservation Alliance, Conservation Congress, Friends of Animals, Friends of the Clearwater, National Wolfwatcher Coalition and Western Watersheds Project sent a Notice of Intent to Sue on Sept 10.

They joined the more nationally known groups Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, who also have said they will file a lawsuit over the delisting.

Press release

Sep 102012

The same day the final rule delisting wolves in Wyoming appeared in the Federal Register, four environmental groups said they will sue the Fish and Wildlife Service over the decision, annonced last week.

Earthjustice, representing Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club, sent a 60-day Notice of Intent to Sue to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and FWS Director Dan Ashe.

“Wyoming’s wolf management policies open the door to unlimited wolf killing throughout most of the state and provide inadequate protection for wolves even where killing is regulated,” a news release issued today says.


NOITS posted on ESWR’s page

Delisting rule in FR

Earthjustice page with wolf links

Aug 312012

“Wyoming’s gray wolf population is stable, threats are sufficiently minimized, and a post-delisting monitoring and management framework has been developed,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said in a final rule to be published in the Federal Register that will remove ESA protection for gray wolves in Wyoming.

The decision means that the Northern Rocky Mountains Distinct Population Segment of the wolf will no longer be listed in Montana, Idaho or Wyoming. The first two states have already allowed hunting of the animals. The latest decision, feared and fought by environmental groups, paves the way for hunting in Wyoming.


  • Credit: Tracy Brooks/Mission Wolf / USFWS 
Apr 042012

A federal judge has ruled against requests that would allow continued hunting without a permit of three non-native, privately bred antelope species on game farms in Texas (Safari Club International v. Salazar, 11-1564-BAH; Exotic Wildlife Association v. U.S. 12-340-BAH, D.D.C).

Safari Club International and the Exotic Wildlife Association had asked U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell for separate injunctions. SCI sought to enjoin enforcement of endangered status for the scimitar-horned oryx, dama gazelle, and addax, Howell noted in her April 3 opinion. EWA and co-plaintiffs “are seeking more narrow relief” to prohibit the Fish and Wildlife Service from enforcing a final rule removing a regulation “that has, since 2005, exempted U.S. non-native captive populations of the three antelope species from many of the prohibitions, restrictions, and requirements attendant to their classification as endangered species.”

That rule, which goes into effect today (April 4, 2012), was promulgated in response to a previous federal court decision (Friends of Animals v. Salazar, 626 F. Supp. 2d 102, D.D.C. 2009) that found FWS had illegally allowed the hunting of the antelope species, which are native to Africa but are raised on game farms in Texas. The “captive-bred exemption” was included in a rule listing the species as endangered. District Court Judge Henry Kennedy determined that the rule had been issued without proper public notice and comment.

In her decision, Howell said then plaintiffs had not demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, because FWS’s listing decision “was issued only after years of consultation and research, and appears to be consistent with the policy and practice of the FWS as well as with the purpose of the ESA.”

The judge said that examples cited by SCI where FWS treated captive and wild animals differently “are just that, examples.” She continued:

“An agency decision to treat the wild and captive antelope together in the listing decision came only after consideration over the period from 1991 to 2005. The fact that the FWS has over time differentiated between wild and captive animals in the case of other animal species does not, on its own, suggest to the court that the decision not to do so in this case was arbitrary and capricious.”

The judge also said SCI had not been able to show that FWS “ignored the conservation mandates of the ESA.”

“Indeed, by listing both the captive and wild populations of the three antelope species as endangered, the FWS has ensured that prohibitions against taking, importing, and exporting will apply to all members of the three antelope species. There will be no confusion about whether a party is attempting to ‘take’ a captive-bred antelope or a wild antelope as there might be if only some of the three antelope species were considered ‘endangered.’ ”

EWA argued that FWS should have considered delisting the species, and that removing the captive-bred exemption will harm conservation efforts. Indeed, EWA had argued that “[t]he draconian effect of this new rule is easy to predict [because], since publication of the proposed rule last summer, many owners have already disposed of half or all of their oryx, addax and dama gazelles.”

“These claims about the adverse impact on the U.S. herds of these endangered species from the final rule, even before it becomes effective, are obviously disturbing,” Howell said. “Neither SCI nor the EWA plaintiffs have shown, however, that they are entitled to a preliminary injunction because they will suffer irreparable harm. In the case of both SCI and the EWA plaintiffs, the harm alleged is (1) primarily economic and (2) in any case, remedied by the permit practice that is already in place.”

“The court does not underestimate the significance of the economic loss to individual ranchers resulting from the depreciation in the value of the animals,” the judge wrote. “Nevertheless, the standard for showing irreparable harm in this jurisdiction is strict, and economic harm alone is generally not sufficient to warrant this court’s granting of a motion for a preliminary injunction. The D.C. Circuit has made it clear that ‘economic loss does not, in and of itself, constitute irreparable harm.’ Wisconsin Gas Co. v. FERC, 758 F.2d 669, 674 (D.C. Cir. 1985).”

Said the judge: “The regulations in place after the final rule goes into effect on April 4 . . . should allow plaintiffs to continue raising the [antelopes]. First, the ESA does not regulate ‘purely intrastate activities (with the exception of take).’ 77 Fed. Reg. at 433. Thus, plaintiffs will be able to continue to possess animals, transport them within the state, or sell them to another party within the state without a permit. Beyond those activities, permits will be available for many of the other activities currently engaged in by the plaintiffs.”

Supreme Court to take up takings case involving flooding in Arkansas

The Supreme Court granted a petition for writ of certiorari in a case involving the Army Corp of Engineers’ flooding of a wildlife management area in Arkansas (Ark. Game & Fish Commission v. U.S., 11-597).

The question is “whether government actions that impose recurring flood invasions must continue permanently to take property within the meaning of the Takings Clause.”


Investigation demanded of trapping, killing of Idaho wolf by Forest Service employee

The Center for Biological Diversity has asked the Forest Service and Idaho Attorney General to investigate the actions of a Forest Service employee “who posted photos of a wolf he had trapped in northern Idaho that had been maliciously and non-fatally shot by people who spotted the animal from a nearby road.”

The photos were originally posted on the website but havre since been taken down. [Editor’s note: The Center for Biological Diversity also had posted a photo to which we linked earlier, but CBD has removed that picture, as well as a letter it sent to the Idaho Attorney General.]

“A year ago, that wolf was protected as a member of an endangered species, but last month he was trapped, tortured and killed thanks to an underhanded congressional rider that’s also responsible for the deaths of hundreds of other wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains,” said the Center’s Michael Robinson. “A lack of respect for the balance of nature is leading to a war on wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains.”

Bransford with the wolf before he shot it (pic downloaded from Idaho Statesman page; I have no intention of removing it.)

According to the Boise Weekly,” a spokesman for [Idaho Fish and Game’s] Clearwater Region said the wolf was legally trapped by Bransford and subsequently checked by department officials.”

Bransford works in the Nez Perce National Forest, but there has been no suggestion that the incident occurred while he was on the job.

Here’s the Earth Island Journal account.