Tag Archives: federal court

Gray Wolves Regain Federal Protection

Gray wolves in much of the lower 48 have regained federal protection  following a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. 

Photo Credit: John E. Marriott

In the final months of the Trump administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a rule that delisted the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act.  Gray wolves were also previously delisted through the Bush (2007), and Obama Administrations (2009, 2012). The 2020 delisting was hailed by the then-Administration as a success story and defended in Federal Court by the Biden Administration.  As a result of the 2020 effort, the gray wolf returned to state and tribal management throughout the U.S. after over 40 years of federal protection.

Gray wolf recovery “depends on the cooperation of wildlife managers at the state, tribal and federal levels, and a reliance on the best available science to guide management decisions.”                                               – Secretary Haaland, Department of the Interior

 

On February 10, 2022, Judge Jeffrey White of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued an ruling which nullified the delisting of the gray wolf and restored federal protection for the animal in much of the U.S.  Gray wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming were previously delisted and not the subject of the Judge’s opinion. Similarly, Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico were never delisted and never lost federal protection. However, as ordered by Judge White, a George W. Bush appointee, management of gray wolves in the lower 48 outside of the Northern Rockies will once again be in the hands of the Federal Government. The ruling comes days after Interior Secretary Deb Haaland wrote of the successes of gray wolf conservation and that their recovery “depends on the cooperation of wildlife managers at the state, tribal and federal levels, and a reliance on the best available science to guide management decisions.” 

The 2020 delisting of the gray wolf was heralded by some and scorned by others.  It was this rule that began a legal challenge that ultimately resulted in the February 2021 wolf hunt in Wisconsin – a hunt that garnered headlines for the speed at which the hunting quota was achieved and surpassed.  A Dane County Wisconsin judge later blocked a Fall 2021 wolf hunt holding that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) must first propose a rule for wolf hunting that would need to be approved by the legislature.  With Judge White’s federal order, Wisconsin’s state managed wolf hunt is foreclosed, for the moment. 

Whether the Biden Administration will appeal Judge White’s order remains an open question as is Wisconsin’s update to the state’s Wolf Management Plan. The state’s current plan was developed in 1999 and updated in 2007. However, the DNR had been working toward a new update to the plan in 2022. 

“I hope the DNR will move forward…and clarify what the management goals for the state ought to be.”          – Adrian Wydeven, retired DNR Wolf Biologist

 

Rachel Tilseth, founder of Wolves of Douglas County Wisconsin, believes there is still work to do. The gray wolf “may be protected again (blessing) but nothing’s changed. Still have the same fight between pro and anti-wolf organizations with no compromise.  The work must continue to write a comprehensive wolf management plan that takes into account all stakeholders,” Tilseth writes. 

Adrian Wydeven, a retired Wisconsin DNR wolf biologist, hopes that Wisconsin will complete the wolf management plan update. “I hope the DNR will move forward…and clarify what the management goals for the state ought to be,” Wydeven said. He also expressed hope “to see states manage wolves [once again] but to do so more responsibly and without politics.” 

Whether and when the states outside of the Northern Rockies will be responsible for the management of wolves is likely the subject of additional litigation and rulemaking. For now, the gray wolf in much of the lower 48 is under federal management and protection. 

 

The Six Ojibwe Tribe’s Hearing is This Friday Oct. 29th in Federal Court…

…As Wisconsin’s proposed wolf hunt violates treaty rights.

The tribes, represented by Earthjustice, the nonprofit environmental legal organization, are slated to argue their case about the hunt tomorrow, Friday, Oct. 29, in federal court in the Western District of Wisconsin.

Earthjustice represents the tribal nations Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

Six Ojibwe tribes are heading to federal court Friday morning in hopes of stopping a Wisconsin wolf hunt from taking place this fall.

They’re represented by Earthjustice. Senior attorney Christopher Clark said the legal team will argue the proposed hunt is not grounded in sound biological principals and violates the tribes’ treaty rights.

It’s important to note that our claims in federal court are on behalf of tribes who have treaty rights under the United States Constitution. Treaties are the supreme law of the land, and so they trump anything that’s going on with respect to the state law issues that are being litigated in Dane County,” Clark said.

Wisconsin’s fall hunt was slated to kick off Saturday. But it’s already at a standstill after a circuit court judge ruled the DNR must update its management plan, including how it sets harvest quotas.

Clark said the six Ojibwe tribes want to make sure that update happens.

“We are concerned that the injunction that is in place from the Dance County Circuit Court by an appellate court, or during the pendency of an appeal, the state or perhaps or another party could seek and obtain a stay of that injunction, which basically puts the wolf hunt back on,” Clark said.

The attorney said his clients don’t want to see a repeat of the hastily-organized and what critics say was an ill-timed harvest last February. It took place after the wolf was delisted a month earlier by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Sources

This motion is part of the tribes’ lawsuit filed Sept. 21 in the Western District of Wisconsin against the state claiming the proposed hunt violates the tribes’ treaty rights. The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved a quota of 300 wolves, ignoring the recommendations of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and willfully acting to nullify the Ojibwe Tribes’ share of wolves which the tribes seek to protect. Even the lower quota of 130 wolves recommended by the Department has no grounding in sound biological principles because, in developing the recommended quota, the Department failed to obtain a population estimate of the Wisconsin wolves that are remaining after a rushed hunt held in February.

During that three-day hunt, non-Indian hunters killed at least 218 wolves, including all of the Ojibwe tribes’ share in violation of the tribes’ treaty rights. Neither the Board nor the Department has made any changes to the management of the hunt to prevent a repeat of February’s disastrous overkill of wolves. Scientists estimate that a third of all wolves in Wisconsin have been killed since federal delisting.

THE FOLLOWING ARE STATEMENTS FROM EARTHJUSTICE AND TRIBAL REPRESENTATIVES FROM THEIR DECLARATIONS FOR THE COURT:

“This case is about Wisconsin’s responsibility to protect and conserve the natural resources we all share,” said Gussie Lord, managing attorney of Earthjustice’s Tribal Partnerships program. “The Ojibwe’s treaty rights guarantee them the ability to coexist with the natural world in the way that they believe is appropriate and necessary to sustain the future generations. Wisconsin does not have exclusive rights here. The state has set the stage for yet another violation of the Ojibwe’s treaty rights and we are asking the Court to step in and prevent that from happening.” Source EarthJustice press release.

“Our treaties represent a way of life for our tribal people. Eroding and disregarding our treaties is unacceptable. We view violations of our treaty rights as hostile actions against our tribal sovereignty and the very lives of tribal people.” – From the declarationof Mike Wiggins, Jr., Chairman, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

“What happens to ma’iingan happens to Anishinaabe. What happens to the wolf happens to humanity. That is universal law. The ecosystem is all connected. That is the message the ma’iingan is giving to humanity.  Look at what we are facing today — the fish are dying, the trees are dying, the climate is changing, the water is drying up.  Look at what is going on with the earth — what is taking place. I believe ma’iingan is saying — pay attention.” – From the declaration of Marvin DeFoe, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

“The wolves are part of the ecosystem. The deer herds in Wisconsin are infected with Chronic Wasting Disease. When the wolves see the herd, they take the weak animals to try to keep the herd strong. We need strong deer herds, we need the body of the waawaashkeshi, to feed our families.” – From the declaration of Robert VanZile, Chairman, Sokaogon Chippewa Community.

“The Ojibwe that hunt, fish and gather, we take and give back. We are supposed to be looking out for the next seven generations. I try to do that by teaching my grandsons to just take what they need to survive. We teach our children this — when we know it is wrong to hunt, we do not hunt. We take a step back and assess the damage. We determine how we can help so we can have the animals, the plants, the fish, for our future.” – From the declaration of John Johnson, Sr., President, Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.