MISSOULA, Mont.–Animal rights groups are challenging in federal court the constitutionality of Congress’ recent delisting of wolves in parts of the West. Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Mont., will consider the challenge, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has filed a motion to intervene in support of the delisting.
If the motion is granted, Judge Molloy will consider RMEF positions in his decision.
“We are resolute in our argument that individual states, not the federal government, are best qualified to manage recovered species,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “This latest in a long line of frivolous lawsuits over wolves could delay science-based wolf management again in 2011 and cause further conservation problems into the future. Elk, deer and moose herds in some areas are in serious trouble right now.”
He added, “We were concerned when the delisting bill went through Congress that wolf management would be left open to further legal challenges. Now those fears are reality. It is critical that we defend the legislation or the future of wildlife management could implode in more legal maneuvering and litigation. This is not what the ESA (Endangered Species Act) was designed to do, but it’s what the ESA has been reduced to today.”
Research shows elk calf survival rates in some areas of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are now too low to sustain herds for the future. At the same time, Allen added, wolf populations across the northern Rockies are likely higher than commonly reported estimates.
“Animal rights groups and some media are still using the 2008 wolf population estimate of 1,700 for the northern Rockies as if no population growth is occurring. But wolves reproduce by as much as 25 percent each year. Simple math shows it’s possible there could be more than 3,000 wolves in the northern Rockies by the end of 2011–almost double the number we usually see in the news,” he said.
Controlling wolf populations via state-regulated hunting would help, but animal rights and environmental extremist groups continue to use lawsuits to delay or stop the hunts.
“RMEF will vigorously defend the delisting because it’s time to let states manage wolves as they do with all other wildlife. There is no real science that disputes the fact that gray wolves are recovered and there is no compelling reason why states cannot manage wolf populations,” said Allen.
He added, “There are recovered wolf populations in the Great Lakes states that have yet to be delisted as well. This debate is bigger than just the Rocky Mountains.”