Wolf news: Defenders bombard governor
BY: Joy Ufford
Jimenez joins G&F, suit filed
With the gray wolf no longer under the auspices of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) Mike Jimenez faced the phasing-out of his federal position as FWS recovery project leader in Wyoming for the past nine years.
Not to worry – last Friday, Wyoming Game and Fish (G&F) announced Jimenez is its new wolf program coordinator. Jimenez will remain on the FWS payroll, however, until year’s end, to make a smooth transition between federal and state wolf management and his employment status.
“We feel extremely fortunate to have Mike on board for this position,” said G&F Wildlife Chief Jay Lawson Friday. “Mike has been involved with Wyoming’s wolf population since reintroduction and I don’t think anyone has a better understanding of these animals, Wyoming’s unique landscape and the diversity of social issues involved with managing wolves in this state.”
Jimenez has researched, monitored and managed wolves in British Columbia, Montana, Idaho and lastly, Wyoming. He will be based in Jackson and supervise three permanent wolf management specialists and four seasonal personnel.
This week, Jimenez couldn’t comment on the lawsuit filed Monday. But he can say he looks forward to his new position.
“Everybody has been incredibly gracious and welcoming,” he said. “Everybody is trying to help me out and make this program successful.”
In his recent FWS role Jimenez worked with G&F employees and Sublette ranchers with wolf predation problems.
“Speaking as a rancher, I’ve had a good working relationship with Mike,” said Cat Urbigkit of Big Piney. “He’s been in the position of having to juggle pressures from all sides while resolving issues on the ground. Last year, he authorized more aggressive control of entire wolf packs early in the season, as soon as problems happened. The result was less livestock killed in Wyoming. I appreciate his efforts and I’m betting he does a good job working for the state.”
Pinedale North Game Warden Bubba Haley said he has found Jimenez to be “very hard working” and “real responsive to my questions or concerns.”
“I’ve worked with Mike off and on ever since I got to Pinedale, almost six years now,” Haley said. “I’ve been very impressed with the job he did with the conditions he did it in. He knows the animals, know the area, knows the issues. I think it’ll be a good deal for Wyoming, for the department.”
Wolf suit filed
On Monday, the expected court battle between a dozen conservation groups and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began with Earthjustice attorneys filing suit against wolves’ delisting and requested a preliminary injunction until U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula, Montana, issues a final decision.
“Unregulated wolf killing in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana has commenced,” the suit claims. “Plaintiffs respectfully request that their motion for a preliminary injunction be granted, and that this Court order that ESA protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies shall be reinstated pending a final decision on the merits of this case.”
Earthjustice represents Defenders of Wildlife, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Western Watersheds Project, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Humane Society of the United States, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project and Wildlands Project.
If an injunction is filed, Northern Rockies’ wolf management presumably returns to the FWS. Before the state agreed to take over wolf management, Wyoming law required FWS to rewrite its “10(j) rule” to offer citizens and agencies broader control over problem wolves. The trophy and predator designated areas would be suspended in that event.
“Since delisting, a spate of wolf killings by a variety of methods – pursuing wolves long distances with snowmobiles, shooting wolves from the roadside, and lying in wait for wolves at state-run elk feedgrounds – demonstrates the need now, as much as ever, to protect wolves under the Endangered Species Act,” the suit says. It also states conservation groups will suffer “irreparable harm” if wolves remain delisted.
“The killings of wolves in Sublette County, Wyoming – within Wyoming’s predator zone – present the real possibility that plaintiffs’ members will no longer be able to view any wolves in Sublette County. … Wyoming law also imperils the popular Teton Pack and two other wolf packs near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, which occasionally travel south into Wyoming’s predator zone, where the wolves will be subject to immediate killing. Members of plaintiff organizations in Jackson, Wyoming enjoy observing the Teton wolves and other packs, and will be irreparably injured if those wolves are shot.”
FWS Wolf Recovery Coordinator Ed Bangs has consistently said delisting was based on solid biological data.
G&F called the lawsuit “both unnecessary and unproductive.”
“Wolf recovery in Wyoming has been a tremendous conservation success,” Keszler said. “Wyoming’s wolf plan provides protections for wolves in northwest Wyoming where there is adequate habitat to maintain wolves into perpetuity. (G&F) is fully committed to maintaining a population of wolves in this part of Wyoming, ensuring they will never again need to be placed on the Endangered Species List.”
Earthjustice attorney Jenny Harbine said Tuesday she “can’t speculate on the chances of a judge enjoining delisting. I think we have strong claims that the (FWS) decision to delist wolves was unlawful, but it will be up to the judge to determine whether an injunction will issue.”
Defenders on offensive
In the meantime, Defenders of Wildlife this week orchestrated a nationwide call-in campaign to Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal’s office, ringing the lines off the hook trying to force him to change his stance supporting Wyoming’s current predator-trophy management plan.
By Wednesday morning, nearly 700 calls were logged opposing the state’s wolf plan.
“People are calling from all over the U.S. and are hoping that the state will change its wolf management plan, particularly the predator status,” said press secretary Cara Eastwood after her one-hour shift answering phones.
Only two callers said they are from Wyoming. Many callers said they were “reading from a script provided by the Defenders of Wildlife,” according to the governor’s office.
It appears unlikely the tactic will have much effect.
“The Governor is aware of the calls, but has no plans to make any changes to the state’s management plan,” Eastwood said. “The state’s plan took years to develop working closely with the Fish and Wildlife Service, conservation and wildlife groups and the general public. As the Governor said following the delisting, it was expected that we would see a number of wolves killed in the beginning and that it would level off soon afterward. It has…”