Budget deal includes ‘de-listing’ of wolves in Montana and Idaho

Steven Nelson Associate Editor
Font Size:

The budget deal that will be voted on this week to avoid a government shutdown may cost lives. The lives of gray wolves, that is.

A rider will be included in the budget package to authorize the states of Montana and Idaho to remove the gray wolf from its protected listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Wolf “de-listing” has been a hot issue in the northern Rockies as wolves threaten livestock with population expansion. Washington lobbyists for the effort include former Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig.

The rider in current form authorizes de-listing for Idaho and Montana, but Wyoming may be added before the legislation before it is voted on. The rider was authored by Montana Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and by Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson.

Wyoming Republican Rep. Cynthia Lummis also advocates for de-listing. It is far from certain that Wyoming would be included, as the state has held up previous de-listing efforts by Idaho and Montana.

The Missoulian received the text of the rider from Tester’s office. It reads:

SEC. 1713. Before the end of the 60-day period beginning on the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of the Interior shall reissue the final rule published on April 2, 2009 (74 Fed. Reg. 15123 et seq.) without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule. Such reissuance (including this section) shall not be subject to judicial review and shall not abrogate or otherwise have any effect on the order and judgment issued by the United States District Court for the District of Wyoming in Case Numbers 09-CV-118J and 09-CV-138J on November 18, 2010.

An August statement by Tom Strickland, the Interior Department’s assistant secretary for fish and wildlife and parks, to the Idaho Statesman explained that a then-recent court ruling stipulated that Wyoming develop a wolf conservation program similar to its neighbors before the species could be de-listed.

Beginning in 2005, we returned most management responsibilities for wolves within Idaho and Montana to their respective states with excellent results. Recognizing the fact that Idaho and Montana have implemented strong, scientifically supported wolf management plans backed by state law, we attempted in 2009 to remove wolves from the endangered species list in those states….

The court’s decision clearly shows the road to recovery runs through Wyoming. The judge said we cannot take the wolf off the endangered species list on a state-by-state basis; we can only remove it if all three states in the northern Rockies assure the wolf’s continued well-being. If the state of Wyoming acts, as Idaho and Montana have, to develop and implement an effective management plan, the gray wolf can finally come off the endangered species list.

The rider would prohibit future judicial review that could derail de-listing in Idaho or Montana. This year an agreement allowing the two states to de-list the gray wolf was derailed because of a lack of unanimity from environmental groups. The rider has a high likelihood of passing as a small item within the large budget compromise.