On Monday, Boise's City Club hosted Cal Groen and John Rachael of the Fish and Game Department, offering insight into a debate that’s simmered for over two decades. Beginning with reintroduction in the 80s, the cycle of the “are they or aren’t they?” endangered species listing for wolves reaches a boil. In this episode, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula struck down the reversal of wolves as endangered, reclassifying them as protected animals, and effectively banning all hunting of the creatures.
“This was a federal rule that failed, and it failed Idaho,” said Robin Thorson, the regional director of the National Fish and Wildlife Service, before the decision was made. “We regret that. We believed that this path was merited, and the court disagreed.”
Conservation groups cite the move as a win for what some believe to be a misunderstood species. "This decision is a significant victory for wolves, for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act, and for all Americans who care deeply about conservation," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife.
In 1995, wolves were reintroduced to Idaho and the greater Yellowstone area, allowing for protection until a viable population was attained. Once a defined thirty breeding pairs was reached, Idaho and Montana moved forward with management plans. Idaho began its first wolf hunt in September of 2009, Wyoming declined to create management plans, instead opting to adhere to their view of wolves as predators only—with a shoot on sight listing outside of the national park.
“The path to recovery is through Wyoming. That’s going to be a difficult, impossible path,” said Cal Groen, the director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “Their legislature is very satisfied with their position,” said Groen. “Without Wyoming having a management plan, wolves in Idaho will continue to remain on the endangered species list.”
Judge Molloy ruled that this selective definition of wolves was a violation of the Endangered Species Act. Idaho is pushing the federal government to turn the management over to the state level, while simultaneously courting Wyoming lawmakers, in an attempt to get the three states on the same playing field.
“We have sovereignty,” said Groen. “Our governor will be writing a letter to the secretary of the interior. Our governor has talked to their governor. We’ve offered to talk to their legislature, but they’re very comfortable with where they’re at.”
Expect wolves to be a big topic this coming legislative session.