Reaction to Wolf Legal Decision: It Depends on Your Point of View

To say that the decision was polarizing is an understatement: it seems as through the original decision to bring back wolves to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is being fought over and over again, with loose regulations on the killing of wolves on sight seems to be a backdoor way to reversing the move. Opponents of the measure range from everyday people to politicians such as Idaho Gov. Butch Otter:

I am thoroughly disappointed and frustrated with the court’s decision today returning wolves to federal protection… this judge has inexplicably dismissed a practical, common-sense solution and proven the Endangered Species Act is irreparably broken.

Primarily, opponents of Malloy’s decision cite the danger wolves present as predators, especially towards the Greater Yellowstone Area’s livestock. An op-ed piece from the Billings Gazette states:

The gray wolf population of the Northern Rockies needs to be controlled. While many Montanans appreciate the restoration of this native species to Yellowstone Country and wilderness in the vicinity of Glacier National Park, they understand that this predator must be managed to reduce conflicts with livestock and people who populate the rest of our great state.

Another side is made up of supporters of the decision. Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the non-profit organization Defenders of Wildlife, supported the decision on the grounds that it restored the law in the Greater Yellowstone area, and that the original decision was ill-conceived:

Secretary Salazar’s support of the Bush administration’s proposal to remove protections from wolves was premature and clearly inconsistent with the law. Had the federal government prevailed in the lawsuit, real wolf recovery would have been set back for perhaps decades. Worse, the precedent of the federal government making listing and delisting decisions for endangered species based upon political boundaries rather than science would have crippled the Interior Department’s future management of the Endangered Species Act to the detriment of many species. The faulty effort by the administration has set back legitimate delisting by some time.

In the middle of all this is an argument for working within the system. Mike Clark, executive director of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition in Bozeman, accepts the decision and argues instead how to strike a balance between opponents and supporters, particularly concerning the livestock question. In an op-ed for the Billings Gazette, he writes:

A new wolf management plan must aid ranchers and residents negatively impacted by wolves. We need a fully funded, federal-state compensation program that can respond fairly and quickly when people lose livestock or pets. Where wolves overlap a grazing landscape and chronic predation is high — yet the location is a high priority for wolf conservation — we could create special management zones. Ranchers and residents would be eligible for additional assistance to deal with the complex challenges created by the permanent presence of wolves.

In addition, Clark argued that balance is the only way to prevent squabbles over wolf populations.

The status of gray wolves in the Greater Yellowstone area has been tense ever since the species joined the Endangered Species list in 1974. In the winter of 1995, Yellowstone began a wolf-reintroduction plan which has led to around 1,600 wolves currently in the Northern Rockies region (Yellowstone states Montana, Wyoming, Idaho; as well as parts of Washington and Oregon). They were delisted in 2009 by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Montana and Idaho, sparking more debate before being relisted by Donald Malloy in 2010.

RELATED STORIES: Judge: Wolves Are Again Protected as Endangered; Yellowstone Wolf Numbers Down To Lowest Levels Since 1999; NPS Calls Dive “Natural”

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