From The Outdoor Wire, as sent to them by J.R. Robbins of the NRA. We knew this was coming.

Twelve organizations calling themselves conservation groups filed a federal court lawsuit April 28, challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services removal of northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves from the endangered species list earlier this year. The move may drastically delay Montana, Idaho and Wyoming from implementing wolf management plans that are badly needed to reduce both livestock losses and predation of elk and deer.

Joshua Winchell, spokesperson for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said, The gray wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains exceeded its population goals that were set quite some time ago as part of the recovery effort, and that meant they could be delisted. We worked real hard with our state partners for many, many years to establish meaningful population goals for the wolf, and the wolves really showed remarkable adaptability.

When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the delisting of wolves in February, it became by anyones standards one of America greatest conservation success stories. Listed as endangered in 1974, wolves were re-introduced in Yellowstone National Park and U.S. Forest Service land in 1995 and 96. The minimum recovery goal sought by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the northern Rocky Mountains was 30 successfully breeding pairs and at least 300 individual wolves. That goal was reached in 2002, and today at least 1,500 wolves and 100 breeding pairs roam the region.

When the delisting was announced, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall said, These wolves have shown an impressive ability to breed and expandthey just needed an opportunity to establish themselves in the Rockies. The Service and its partners provided that opportunity, and now its time to integrate wolves in the states overall wildlife management efforts.

The animal-rightists lawsuit states that wolves should not have been delisted because they remain threatened by biased, inadequate state management plans, and lack of connections between isolated state wolf populations.

Reacting to the allegations, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department issued a statement that said, in part: All three states are managing wolves under plans approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are using the best science to maintain a recovered population of wolves. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department considers the lawsuit both unnecessary and unproductive. Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains are doing extremely well, and the population continues to increase by an average of 24 percent annually.

Over and above the state plans, the Endangered Species Act also mandates that USFWS monitor the wolf population for five years after delisting.

The Local Viewpoint

To people who live and hunt in wolf country, it is no surprise that wolves have far exceeded the recovery goal. Many of them feel that the number of wolves has already proved to be devastating to deer and elk.

Tony Mayer, Idaho resident and co-founder of www.saveourelk.com, said, Its impossible for the prey base to withstand the onslaught of wolves. I’ve seen first-hand the carnage, and I dont see how any sane person could not see that something needs to be done.

Wolves have gotten into such numbers that were practically into a predator pit here, I think, said Bob Balser, a hunter and retired logger from Rathdrum, Idaho. The wolves are killing nobody knows how many times more game than they eat. You’ll find elk just having the stomach ripped open, or maybe the wolves just pull the unborn calf out of a female, eat it and walk off. And its not just elk and deer. They’re hitting the moose real hard, too.

In addition to predation on elk, deer and moose, wolves take a serious toll on livestock. In Idaho alone, federal agents confirmed that wolves killed 52 cattle, 170 sheep and six dogs just in 2007.

Whos Doing the Suing

The 12 groups bringing the lawsuit read like a Whos Who of anti-hunting. They are:

EarthJustice
Sierra Club
Defenders of Wildlife
Humane Society of the United States
Natural Resources Defense Council
Center for Biological Diversity
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance
Friends of the Clearwater
Alliance for the Wild Rockies
Oregon Wild
Cascadia Wildlands Project
Western Watersheds Project
Wildlands Project

This lawsuit is just another example of anti-hunting groups using the courts to reverse decisions made by qualified wildlife biologists, said Susan Recce, NRAs Director of Conservation, Natural Resources and Wildlife Management. They simply dont care if wolves have reached recovery goals or not, and the lawsuit isnt about conservation. Its about hunting–these groups dont want wolves hunted for any reason. What better way to prevent that than by keeping a species listed under the Endangered Species Act?

Recce added that NRA and Safari Club International are working together to request to intervene in the lawsuit. Check back with www.nrahuntersrights.org for updates as we get them.

— J.R. Robbins

Editors Note: J.R. Robbins is Managing Editor, Hunting Communications for the National Rifle Association