13 May 2008, 4:25pm
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Montana Groups Join Wolf Lawsuit

MISSOULA - Several Montana agricultural and sportsman associations have moved to intervene in a federal lawsuit recently filed by environmental groups to block wolf delisting. Intervenors include the Montana Shooting Sports Association, the Montana Stockgrowers Association, the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd, the Western Montana Fish and Game Association, and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation and are seeking to insure wolf delisting continues. If delisting stalls it will cause irreparable harm to the Montana hunting and agricultural communities.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has long promised to take wolves off the endangered species list once the target population goals were met, Although those target goals were met years ago, the USFWS waited until 2008 to delist wolves. Eleven environmental groups have filed a lawsuit in federal court asserting that existing wolf populations in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming are insufficient and that wolves should be returned to endangered status until wolves number five to ten times the current count. These organizations include the Sierra Club, Oregon Wild, and the Cascadia Wildlands Project.

MSSA president Gary Marbut commented, “Sportsmen spent a century fostering huntable big game populations that are now being fed to the wolves. Anyone who has hunted elk in southwestern Montana knows that our elk there are being ravaged by wolves. It’s high time the courts heard from Montana people about wolves.”

Natural Resource Director for the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Jay Bodner, commented, “Every wolf pack that has come into contact with livestock has resulted in depredations. These losses have had a dramatic impact on the bottom line for many livestock producers. We can’t afford to see our family ranches be put out of business and sold because of wolf recovery.”

Bob Fanning of the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd said, “Wolves streaming out of Yellowstone Park have decimated the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd and are turning the landscape they invade into a biological desert. This is what Lewis and Clark and the Thompson party discovered about western Montana ruled by a ‘natural’ predator-prey balance. The Lewis and Clark expedition had to eat their horses and the Thompson party nearly starved to death.”

Jim Clawson of the Western Montana Fish and Game Association offered, “Wolves and hunters compete for the same hunting opportunity. Each wolf in Montana displaces about 50 Montana hunters, and there is no legal limit on the number of elk one wolf is allowed to kill, as there is with hunters.”

“Wolf numbers are in excess of the amount agreed on as a sustainable population”, said Jake Cummins, Executive Vice President of the Montana Farm Bureau. “Now it is time to let the Endangered Species Act work as it was intended and move forward with state management”, noted Cummins.

U.S. District Court Judge Don Molloy has already ruled in this case that defendants may not have a time extension to rally support for and craft arguments in favor of wolf delisting. Therefore, these intervening groups have only a few days to construct their briefs in support of delisting.

Attorneys John Bloomquist and Jim Brown of the Helena firm of Doney, Crowley, Bloomquist, Payne and Uda is handling the legal work for these intervenors.



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