Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Allies File Lawsuit to Restore Endangered Species Act Protections for Wolves

Image by USDA.

Let’s get right to the point, the end goal of the wolf ‘management plans’ in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming is to once again exterminate them from the Northern Rockies. They think the only good wolf is a dead wolf.

The wolf slaughter is out of control with bounties, shoot-on-sight, traps, snares, night scopes, and aerial gunning. It’s so horrific they’re even running them down with snowmobiles in Wyoming, which has brought the issue to international attention.

We petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections and send them a 60-day notice of Intent to Sue, but the Fish and Wildlife Service determined that action was ‘not warranted. In fact the Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that all wolves throughout the western United States should not be protected under the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service has not yet delisted wolves in the rest of the western United States but signaled that they will do so.

Because the Service’s finding ignores obvious threats to the species, runs contrary to the best available science, and relies on flawed population models for its determination, our only recourse now is to take the federal government to court so wolves can fulfill their role in the Northern Rockies ecosystem as a critical apex predator. Therefore the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds Project, Trap Free Montana, Friends of the Clearwater, Wilderness Watch and 5 other plaintiffs, all of whom are represented by Western Environmental Law Center, filed a lawsuit

The Alliance successfully sued to overturn the delisting of wolves in 2012. Still, Montana’s Democratic Senator Jon Tester broke his campaign promise to not use riders to overturn court decisions and attached a rider to a must-pass Defense appropriation bill to remove wolves from Endangered Species list. It is time to once again manage wolves in the Northern Rockies and throughout the west based on science, not politics, since Montana, Idaho and Wyoming have proven that they are not capable of doing so.

Despite the “not warranted” finding by the Fish and Wildlife Service, a 2023 study by Dr. Robert Crabtree and others found the state of Montana’s population model was badly biased, overestimating total wolf populations by as much as 50%. The report noted this serious flaw creates a “precariously misleading situation for decision-makers that threatens wolf populations.” That reinforces Dr. Creel’s earlier study that found Idaho and Montana’s population estimates generated by their faulty models are unreliable. Yet the Fish and Wildlife Service relied on these flawed population estimates to conclude wolves in the West are not at risk of extinction.

A second 2023 study by wolf geneticist Dr. Bridgett vonHoldt and others found wolf populations in the northern Rockies are losing genetic variability and are presently below genetic minimum viable population levels. Once inbreeding occurs, the genetic damage is irreversible.

Simply put, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t follow the law and stand up to these states to protect wolves. That’s particularly troubling since Martha Williams, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is the former Director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and is defending Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana’s policies of wolf extermination so we were forced to go to court to protect wolves.

Mike Garrity is the executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies.