To no one’s surprise Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the federal government

had once again failed to comply with the endangered species act for wolf management.  Soon afterwards numerous experts came out with pronouncements about what should occur to solve the problem.

However, can the problem ever be solved under the current statute?  The challenge by the environmental groups consisted of five to seven deficiencies in the now vacated rule.  Out of all of those challenges, the judge only ruled on one, i.e. the distinct population segment or DPS cannot be further broken down so that Wyoming's segment would remain protected under the original non-essential designation while the other two states managed the population under federal oversight.  However, this next point is important, the judge stated that the DPS designation made it unnecessary to rule on the other four to six counts raised by the environmentalists.

The Monday morning quarterbacks immediately looked into their crystal balls and stated that if only Wyoming would list the wolves as trophy game animals in the 75% of the state that is unsuitable for wolves this issue would be resolved.  But would it?

Patrick Henry said that it was, “natural for a man to indulge in the illusions of hope” and further went on to say that, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that lamp is experience.  I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.”  What has the past provided as a lamp to guide our feet?  Wyoming has reached the benchmark laid out by the federal government for grizzly bear recovery at least twice, only to have a judge rule they could not be delisted.

Prior to wolves being exported into Wyoming, Minnesota had tried at least twice to gain control over their wolf management, again only to have a judge reverse the decision.  The latest goal post set for them was to have a viable population of wolves in not only Minnesota but also in the upper peninsula of Michigan and parts of Wisconsin.  Both of those goals have been met, but once again a judge ruled the plan and the goals were invalid.

All of these issues have one thing in common.  The federal government, carrying out the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as mandated by Congress, has tried to turn over management to the states, but the factory fundraisers in the environmental organizations have taken them to court.  The court then substitutes their findings for the agency's judgment.  And in the case of Wyoming, the agency, with nothing to lose immediately, concedes the field to the fundraisers.

Ultimately the blame for the continued failures of the ESA lies with Congress.  The body passed an extremely ambiguous law without knowing what they were passing, and then has not had the intestinal fortitude to address the deficiencies, even though they are blaring and draconian.  There have been several attempts by congressional representatives whose constituents live with these draconian measures to try and amend the act, but their efforts have been drowned by the sea of money from the urban based environmental groups.

The Act is broken.  Numerous studies have shown that the number of species listed grows because of the Act’s poorly written criteria for listing, but the number of species taken off the list is miniscule, again because the Act was poorly written.

In the case of wolves, the agency in charge of importing the wolves has said that by every measure, biologically, the species should be turned over to state management.  This agency worked hand in hand with Wyoming's wildlife officials and political leaders to craft a biologically sound management plan, only to have it rejected because of political concerns.  The state and the agency went back to the table to craft another plan which was then rejected by a judge.

The current judge left on the table four to six further counts by which environmental plaintiffs can return to challenge any future effort.

So what is left as a solution?  Representative Edwards from Texas has introduced H.R. 6028, which would amend the ESA to remove wolves from the Act, as one possible option.  This is only reasonable since Congress began the process back in the early 90s.

Another solution, the current lawsuit which was heard by Judge Johnson could bring this issue to an end if he ruled the rejection of the Wyoming wolf management plan was an abuse of the agency's discretion.  This would allow the agency to again delist the wolf.

Or, and perhaps I'm falling astray of Patrick Henry's admonition, Congress could actually seek to fix a piece of broken legislation by establishing clear workable criteria for recovery and stop trying to make the Fish & Wildlife Service ride a unicycle in one direction to fix the problems brought about by the Act.

By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President