HB343 is a Montana House of Representatives’ bill that would appropriate $150,000 to help fund a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forcing them to get the wolf off the Endangered Species Act list. A group called the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd holds legal eligibility to sue the feds over this and they have requested that Montana join that suit. FNYEH has hired a law firm in Wyoming to handle the case.
Back in the end of March, the Montana house approved HB343 by a two-thirds majority vote. Now the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Diane Rice, R-Harrison, is attempting to convince the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, to also approve this bill and get the money sent.
Even though the House voted to support this bill, not everyone is eager to jump on the bandwagon and take the USFWS to task. The governor’s office and the attorney general say the bill isn’t necessary.
“This lawsuit is unnecessary and counterproductive,” said Assistant Attorney General Pam Bucy. “It will make the delisting take longer.”
Both the governor and attorney general say that Montana is sure to have the wolf delisted by early 2008 and this lawsuit would only slow up the process. I disagree. History with the USFWS shows they have made promises before to delist and have yet to prove they stand by their word. What is also being overlooked from their perspective is that even should the USFWS agree to a delisting, the wolf advocate groups will most assuredly file lawsuit and tie the process up for countless years. This is something that the people of Montana cannot tolerate. The negative affect of wolves now is taking its toll on the ranching and hunting industries, say nothing about personal health and safety. Studies are showing that wolf numbers are growing at a rate approaching 30% a year in some places.
It is my opinion that one way or another this issue is going to end up in court, so why not go on the offense? This too will give Montana a say in what transpires in this lawsuit. The Friends have the legal authority to sue and the state of Montana can and should be able to help fund this process. It is time to challenge to USFWS and in particular the Endangered Species Act and put some sensibility back into the equation. To sit by and watch years and millions of dollars in game management and the ranching industry get further decimated by an out of control wolf population is ludicrous.