16 Jul 2008, 10:45am
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Breeding Wolves Reported in WA State

Outdoor News Bulletin, July 2008 [here]

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) biologists have found strong evidence of a reproducing gray wolf population along the eastern edge of the state’s northern Cascade Mountains, reports the Wildlife Management Institute. On July 8, while conducting howling surveys in Methow Valley, the biologists received responses from numerous juvenile and adult wolves, indicating a breeding pair or a pack. If confirmed, this would mark Washington’s first documented case of a resident gray wolf population since the 1930s, when wolves were extirpated from the state.

“We heard [howling] responses from pups or juveniles first, quickly followed by howling from adults at the same location,” said Scott Fitkin, district wildlife biologist for WDFW. For the last several months, Fitkin and other biologists routinely checked areas in Methow Valley for signs of an established wolf population. This was in response to several reports of individual and multiple wolf sightings by local ranchers and hikers. Located in western Okanogan County, Methow Valley supports the state’s largest migrating deer herd, which, according to Fitkin, provides a more-than-ample prey base for large carnivores.

According to WDFW officials, biologists from the state and U.S. Forest Service are collecting DNA samples and remote camera images of the wolves heard during howling surveys. WDFW also plans to cooperate with federal agencies to capture and radio collar some of the animals to track their movements.

Gray wolf sightings in Washington’s northern Cascade Mountains have been reported since the 1980s. In the early 1990s, state biologists conducting a project to investigate the potential presence of grizzly bears and gray wolves in the state elicited howling responses from single adult animals and, on two occasions, these responses included pup vocalizations. These responses came from the northern portion of the North Cascades, suggesting likely wolf immigration from British Columbia. None of these investigations, however, produced verification of reproducing wolf populations or that the observed wolves were not hybrids; DNA tests for differentiation did not exist at the time.
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9 Jul 2008, 1:17am
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Focus on elk as disease persists near Yellowstone

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials are considering a tentative proposal that calls for capturing or killing infected elk in Yellowstone National Park to eliminate a serious livestock disease carried by animals in the area.

Government agencies have killed more than 6,000 wild bison leaving Yellowstone over the last two decades in an attempt to contain brucellosis, which causes pregnant cattle to abort their young.

Cattle in parts of Wyoming and Montana where bison haven’t roamed for decades are being infected, and livestock officials in both states are now targeting elk as the cause.

“We’ve got way too many elk,” said John Scully, a rancher living in Montana’s Madison Valley. “Clearly with so many elk, the risk rises. We need to reduce their numbers.”

A tentative proposal, drafted by federal officials, sets a goal of eliminating the disease — not just controlling it in bison and in elk.

Livestock officials say infected elk herds around Yellowstone must be culled — an explosive proposition for a prized big game species that has thrived under the protection of a dedicated constituency of hunting groups. Nevertheless, pressure is mounting to kill or capture more of the animals.

Outfitters and hunters are digging in against the prospect of killing elk, concerned that too much culling could shrink herds. They contend wildlife managers should focus on vaccinating cattle or eradicating the disease in bison.

“I will fight that tooth and nail. As a sportsman, those wildlife are a public resource,” said Bill O’Connell of the Gallatin Wildlife Association. … [more]

26 Jun 2008, 11:29am
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Justices Rule for Individual Gun Rights

By DAVID STOUT, NY Times, June 27, 2008

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court declared for the first time on Thursday that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to have a gun, not just the right of the states to maintain militias.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in the landmark 5-to-4 decision, said the Constitution does not allow “the absolute prohibition of handguns held and used for self-defense in the home.” In so declaring, the majority found that a gun-control law in the nation’s capital went too far in making it nearly impossible to own a handgun.

But the court held that the individual right to possess a gun “for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home” is not unlimited. “It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose,” Justice Scalia wrote.

The ruling does not mean, for instance, that laws against carrying concealed weapons are to be swept aside. Furthermore, Justice Scalia wrote, “The court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

The decision upheld a federal appeals court ruling that the District of Columbia’s gun law, one of the strictest in the country, went beyond constitutional limits. Not only did the 1976 law make it practically impossible for an individual to legally possess a handgun in the District, but it spelled out rules for the storage of rifles and shotguns. The court said on Thursday that the law’s requirement that lawful weapons be rendered essentially inoperable, by trigger locks or disassembly, was unconstitutional because it rendered the weapons useless for self-defense.

Joining Justice Scalia were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Anthony M. Kennedy and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

A dissent by Justice John Paul Stevens asserted that the majority “would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons.” Joining him were Justices David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer.

The high court’s ruling was the first since 1939 to deal with the scope of the Second Amendment, and the first ever to directly address the meaning of the amendment’s ambiguous, comma-laden text: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” … [more]

21 Jun 2008, 7:08pm
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Sink or swim: Lake Las Vegas must sell land to stay afloat

By Buck Wargo, In Business Las Vegas, 11/16/2007

The developer of Lake Las Vegas in Henderson is in default on a $560 million loan and has until the end of the year to find buyers for its remaining undeveloped land or the development could face foreclosure, a Lake Las Vegas official said.

A group headed by investment banker Credit Suisse has, for now, waived any default obligations, after Lake Las Vegas, the lake resort community developed by Transcontinental Corp., did not meet its debt obligation on a sales volume quota by Sept. 30, said David Cox, the chief financial officer of Lake Las Vegas.

The group of lenders has loaned Lake Las Vegas additional money to cover its operational expenses and is considering loaning even more funds to cover any shortfalls, Cox said.

Transcontinental’s cash crunch is direct fallout from the ongoing housing slump.

The latest financial woes center on buyers of the third phase of Lake Las Vegas dropping their plans to acquire land as expected, Cox said. Lake Las Vegas, although it took sizable deposits, was counting on $100 million in option payments from builders that fell through, he said.

“We had some option payments that came due, and they were not met,” Cox said. “Those guys are doing their best to find funding sources, but they are in turmoil right now. Sales have dried up (in the industry).” … [more]

21 Jun 2008, 6:07pm
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Poll shows Support for Wolves, ALSO that wolf management and are ranching are OK

posted at Wolf Crossing [here]

Commissioned by organizations such as the Re-Wildling Institute, Arizona Zoological Society, New Mexico Audubon Council, and the Southwest Environmental Center and conducted by Research & Polling, Inc., one of the Southwest’s largest full-service market research and public opinion research companies, a recent poll seeking support for Mexican wolves among Arizona and New Mexico voters had some interesting results.

Most telling is the fact that the vast majority of those polled in both states had little to no knowlege of the Mexican wolf recovery program. Therefore it isn’t surprising that most support wolf recovery, 69% in NM and 77% in Arizona.

What is surprising is the strong support for both wolf control and livestock grazing not fully reported in the mainstream media but prevalent throughout the poll results.

More than two-thirds (68%) of those polled in NM had little to no knowledge of the Mexican wolf recovery program [here]. In Arizona 51% to 52% had little to no knowledge of the Mexican wolf program [here].

Not reported in the major media outlets was the fact that those polled supported ranching on federally administered land and felt livestock grazing was good for the environment.

On livestock grazing

49% of New Mexico participants believed livestock grazing is good for the environment, while 26% had no opinion.

51% Arizona participants believed livestock grazing is good for the environment, while 28% had no opinion.

Spending taxpayer dollars on wolves and ranching.

79% New Mexico participants want taxpayer dollars to go towards helping ranchers who have experienced wolf conflicts to reduce them. 11% specified that they wanted taxpayer dollars to go to removing and even killing wolves that cause conflict with livestock.

71% Arizona participants want taxpayer dollars to go towards helping ranchers who have experienced wolf conflicts to reduce them. 11% specified that they wanted taxpayer dollars to go towards removing and even killing wolves that caused with livestock.

On wolf control

In New Mexico, 33% of participants want to see wolves that kill 3 or more livestock killed or removed. 25% were neutral on the matter (this means they didn’t oppose wolves being killed or removed this was not reported in the mainstream media). Only 36% oppose killing and removing wolves that kill livestock.

In Arizona, 28% of participants want to see wolves that kill 3 or more livestock killed or removed. 24% were neutral on the matter (this means they didn’t oppose wolves being killed or removed this was not reported in the mainstream media). Only 44% oppose killing and removing wolves that kill livestock.

This poll was interpreted to show mass support for wolf recovery and could certainly be interpreted that way if one ignores all other results, yet it also shows widespread support for ranchers and ranching in AZ and NM.

It clearly shows that the majority of people identify with ranchers on loss of personal property and their ability to sustain their livelihoods through livestock grazing and if necessary, through wolf control. The poll could very well be interpreted to show that wolf control to support ranchers is more important to the participants than removal of grazing to support wolves.

What this poll also says is that even with the anti-ranching agenda set forth by those commissioning the polls, the whole range of poll results indicated that the participants generally had positive attitudes about ranching and livestock grazing.

The vast majority of those polled admitted little to no knowledge of the issue, therefore the uneducated public opinion on Mexican wolves and wolf reintroduction is positive. Despite mass media campaigns by wolf advocates who have been educating the public on wolf management that may or may not be scientifically based for years, the public still supports livestock grazing on federally administered lands, and possibly even over wolf recovery even though they also support the idea of wolves on the same landscape. What would happen with a little pro-active education on the real wolf story from a ranching perspective?

21 Jun 2008, 1:13pm
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The Hairy Reed - Satire

By Julie Kay Smithson. Property Rights Research [here]

The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has received a petition to list the hairy reed as an artificial species under the Artificial Species Act of 2008 (ASA).

The petition was submitted by a representative of the Lake Las Vegas Deepwater Marina Authority and stated, in part, that the hairy reed is often “in over its head” when dealing with environmental issues. Baking in the Clark County summer sun is a possible habitat behavior that may be contraindicated by the species’ single recognizable specimen and its tendency to inhabit a seemingly contradictory habitat: The District of Columbia.

The hairy reed may be recognized by its propensity to sway in the wind, but also has certain characteristics reminiscent of predatory plants like the Venus flytrap, opening for fresh meat and then slamming shut. Such activity usually goes on behind closed doors, so is, at best, only suspect behavior.

Sightings of this species include press conferences, photo-ops, and political events, the latter being the most probable place to successfully spot the hairy reed, especially during election years.

Whether NDOW will seriously consider listing the hairy reed as an artificial species remains a mystery. The ASA mandates that a bovine excreta study (BES) be done to determine whether the hairy reed should be listed. Several universities have, however, applied for grant funding to monitor and track the hairy reed.

6 Jun 2008, 1:12pm
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Wolves kill 15 sheep near Dillon

By the Billings Gazette News Services [here]

BOZEMAN - State wildlife officials say wolves have killed 15 domestic buck sheep and injured 14 others on private land in the East Fork of the Blacktail, south of Dillon.

Officials say the Freezeout Pack probably killed two ewes as well.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks says wolves killed six sheep on the same property in early May. Because of the history of depredations, the agency last week authorized USDA Wildlife Services to kill three of the pack’s five adult wolves.

In an unrelated incident, a pair of wolves has killed a calf on private land in the Greenhorn Mountains, south of Alder.

Officials believe the pair, called the Jack Creek Pack, injured two other calves on the same property in early May.

FWP said it will monitor the pack but take no additional action at this time.

30 May 2008, 9:43am
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Group announces intent to sue over walrus petition

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A conservation group gave notice Tuesday that it will sue to force federal action on a petition to list the Pacific walrus as a threatened species because of threats from global warming and offshore petroleum development.

The deadline was May 8 for an initial 90-day review of the petition by the U.S. Department of the Interior, according to Center for Biological Diversity attorney Brendan Cummings.

The group filed the petition in February.

Shaye Wolf, a biologist and lead author of the petition, said Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than the best predictions of climate models.

“As the sea ice recedes, so does the future of the Pacific walrus,” she said.

The conservation group was one of three that successfully petitioned to have polar bears listed as threatened because of sea ice loss caused by global warming, a decision announced May 14 by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. That listing also followed court action to force deadline decisions. …

As many as 6,000 walruses late last summer and fall abandoned the remaining ice, which covered deep water, and congregated on Alaska’s northwest shore.

Herds were larger on the Russian side, where one group included as many as 40,000 animals, according to Russian observers. They estimated 3,000 to 4,000 mostly young walruses died in stampedes when herds rushed into the water at the sight of polar bears, hunters or low-flying aircraft. … [more]

25 May 2008, 10:18pm
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Polar Bear listing increases Inuit mistrust

Kivalliq Inuit Association predicts that scientists will be proven wrong once again

by JOHN THOMPSON, Nunatsiaq News, May 23, 2008 [here]

It’s easy to romanticize the majestic polar bear when you don’t have to worry about the enormous animals marauding down the streets of your community in August and September, as Lootie Toomasie from Qikiqtarjuaq often does.

For Toomasie, bears are no symbol of climate change. They’re a threat to his family. He and other hunters chase the bears off, using ATVs and boats. Still, “there’s too many bears for us,” he says. “We’re no longer safe.”

One benefit the bears bring is business, in the form of wealthy U.S. hunters who are willing to pay as much as $30,000 to bag one of the beasts. But that business may now be crippled, many worry, following the U.S. decision May 14 to list polar bears as “threatened” under its Endangered Species Act.

Most sport hunters who visit Nunavut hail from the United States. But now U.S. hunters aren’t allowed to bring their polar bear trophies home, as one consequence of the “threatened” designation. The polar bear sport hunt draws about $2.9 million into Nunavut each year, the department of the environment estimates.

The importation ban won’t prevent bears from being shot. Nunavut will continue to manage its quota system for hunting bears the same as always, by estimating the total bear population, calculating a sustainable number of bears to take, and then dividing the total quota up among local hunters, who do with these tags as they see fit. This year about 400 bears are to be shot.

Nor will the decision to list bears as threatened likely do much to stop climate change, which is melting sea ice [not true, see next FFW News post] that bears depend upon while they hunt seals.

Dirk Kempthorne, U.S. secretary of the interior, has vowed that the threatened designation will have no effect on oil and gas exploration in Alaska, or bring about any stricter rules in the U.S. to curb greenhouse gas emissions. But the decision has succeeded enormously in infuriating Inuit. The business of outfitting American hunters brought good money into otherwise poor communities, such as Qikiqtarjuaq, where there are few jobs.

And Inuit see the decision as part of a yet another reason to distrust studies put together by wildlife researchers, which often clash with their own views. The Kivalliq Inuit Association [here] said in a press release they believe the U.S. decision is no different from past instances where scientists warned that animals were in decline, only to be later proven wrong by Inuit who said otherwise.

So it went with the Qamanirjuaq caribou herd 30 years ago, and with bowhead whales as of March this year, when the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans acknowledged they had dramatically undercounted the whale population. The number of polar bears is believed to have soared over the past 30 years, from a total population of about 12,000 in the late 1960s to about 24,000 today. Two-thirds of those bears live in Canada.

Some bears are faring better than others. Of the world’s 19 subpopulations of polar bears, four are believed to be in decline. One of the four is Baffin Bay, an area that includes Qikiqtarjuaq, where scientists say the bear population has plunged [allegedly dropped slightly] from about 2,100 in 1997 to an estimated 1,500 bears today. But hunters like Toomasie say they’ve never seen so many bears before.

Scientists counter that more bear sightings doesn’t equal more bears. They say in recent years the floe edge has moved several kilometres closer to shore on the northeastern edge of Baffin Island, bringing bears and hunters closer together [not true, see next FFW News post]. … [more]

Thanks and a tip of the virtual hat to the Rogue Pundit [here] for pointing out this news report.

Great tits cope well with warming

By Richard Black, BBC News website [here]

At least one of Britain’s birds appears to be coping well as climate change alters the availability of a key food.

Researchers found that great tits are laying eggs earlier in the spring than they used to, keeping step with the earlier emergence of caterpillars.

Writing in the journal Science, they point out that the same birds in the Netherlands have not managed to adjust.

Understanding why some species in some places are affected more than others by climatic shifts is vital, they say.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) commented that other species are likely to fare much worse than great tits as temperatures rise. … [more]

17 May 2008, 12:30am
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Sea lions likely died from the heat

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The deaths of six sea lions found in traps on the Columbia River earlier this month were likely caused by the heat, and not by gunshots as officials first suspected, the National Marine Fisheries Service said.

Oregon and Washington officials had been trapping the animals as part of a federally approved removal process because they feast on salmon at the Bonneville Dam.

Federal and state officials initially said the sea lions had been shot, but they did an about-face after necropsies by state and federal experts found no evidence of bullet wounds.

The fisheries service said Wednesday the results of necropsies on all six animals were consistent with death from heat stroke. Studies of tissue samples taken after the May 4 deaths are expected in about 10 days and might reveal more.

The Humane Society of the United States questioned whether the 60-degree weather would kill the animals. Marine mammal experts, however, said the blubbery animals are used to swimming in cold water and can rapidly overheat even when air temperatures are comfortable to humans.

Panic as the sea lions realized they were trapped in the cages could also have caused them to exert themselves, further elevating their body temperatures, Steven Brown, veterinarian for the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, told The Oregonian newspaper. At least one of the sea lions had lacerations believed to be inflicted by another animal.

Secretary Kempthorne Announces Decision to Protect Polar Bears under Endangered Species Act

U.S. Dept. of the Interior Press Release [here]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne today announced that he is accepting the recommendation of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dale Hall to list the polar bear as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The listing is based on the best available science, which shows that loss of sea ice threatens and will likely continue to threaten polar bear habitat. This loss of habitat puts polar bears at risk of becoming endangered in the foreseeable future, the standard established by the ESA for designating a threatened species.

In making the announcement, Kempthorne said, “I am also announcing that this listing decision will be accompanied by administrative guidance and a rule that defines the scope of impact my decision will have, in order to protect the polar bear while limiting the unintended harm to the society and economy of the United States.”

Kempthorne further stated, “While the legal standards under the ESA compel me to list the polar bear as threatened, I want to make clear that this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting. Any real solution requires action by all major economies for it to be effective. That is why I am taking administrative and regulatory action to make certain the ESA isn’t abused to make global warming policies.”

In January 2007, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the polar bear as threatened throughout its range based on receding sea ice. At that time, Secretary Kempthorne directed the Fish and Wildlife Service and the USGS to aggressively work with the public and the scientific community to broaden understanding of what is happening with the species. In September 2007, the USGS delivered to the Fish and Wildlife Service nine studies related to the future condition of the polar bear and its habitat.

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US lists polar bear as threatened species

The Interior Department declared the polar bear a threatened species Wednesday, saying it must be protected because of the decline in Arctic sea ice from global warming.

Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne cited dramatic declines in sea ice over the last three decades and projections of continued losses. These declines, he told a news conference, mean the polar bear is a species likely to be in danger of extinction in the near future.

Kempthorne also said, though, that it would be “inappropriate” to use the protection of the bear to reduce greenhouse gases, or to broadly address climate change.

Reflecting views recently expressed by President Bush, Kempthorne said the Endangered Species Act was “never meant to regulate global climate change.”

He said the decision to list the bear includes administrative actions aimed at limiting the impact of the decision on energy development and other climate related activities.

“This listing will not stop global climate change or prevent any sea ice from melting,” said Kempthorne. He said he had consulted with the White House on the decision, but “at no time was there ever a suggestion that this was not my decision.”

AP - Kempthorne cited as support for his decision conclusions by the department’s scientists that sea ice loss will likely result in two-thirds of the polar bears disappearing by mid-century.

Notwithstanding the secretary’s disclaimers, this is the first time the Endangered Species Act has been used to protect a species threatened by the impacts of global warming. There has been concern within the business community that such an action could have far-reaching impact and could be used to regulate carbon dioxide.

14 May 2008, 11:36am
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Kempthorne to Make Major Announcement on Status of Polar Bear

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Wednesday, May 14, at 2:30 p.m. at the Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne will make a major announcement on the status of the polar bear.

A press release and other materials will be posted on line at that time [here]

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.

  • For the benefit of the interested general public, W.I.S.E. herein presents news clippings from other media outlets. Please be advised: a posting here does not necessarily constitute or imply W.I.S.E. agreement with or endorsement of any of the content or sources.
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