Settlement Over Wolf Delisting Divides Conservation Groups

On Friday, a settlement was reached between conservation groups and the Department of the Interior over wolf recovery efforts in the Northern Rockies.

Legislation has recently been introduced that threatened to remove wolves from the Endangered Species Act. The move to delist an animal is unprecedented and would be the first time since the ESA was established that Congress has been asked to exempt an animal from protection, a move that conservation groups and activists worried could severely undermine the integrity of the ESA and put other species in peril.

Wildlife advocates are trying to head off the bills in Congress, saying this politicizes an animal’s existence with no sound scientific backing.

In 2008, 14 conservation groups joined a lawsuit to ensure the continued protection of wolves. Concerned that congressional removal of all protections for wolves was imminent, ten of these groups have reached a settlement that would remove ESA protections for about 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana, while expanding protection in Oregon, Washington, Utah and Wyoming.

Current counts estimate that there are 566 wolves in Montana, 705 in Idaho and 343 in Wyoming, with a total of about 1,650 for all states in question combined, with none in Utah.

Separate negotiations are being pursued in Wyoming, where wolves can currently be shot on site if they’re found outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks and surrounding Forest Service land.

The 10 groups include Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and Wildlands Network.

Four of the groups that declined to settle include the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Western Watersheds, Humane Society of the United States and Friends of the Clearwater. They reportedly felt that things were going in their favor and there was no reason to drop the suit when a judge declared that wolves couldn’t be considered recovered in two states and not the adjacent ones.

If the settlement is approved by the Montana federal court, wolf management will be returned to the state fish and wildlife agencies in Idaho and Montana and will be managed regionally. According to Defenders of Wildlife, scientific safeguards will be put in place to ensure populations are protected, which includes monitoring populations and independent scientific reviews after three years. If the states fail to hold up their end of the bargain, wolves may again be placed under the ESA.

Groups in opposition to the deal are concerned that both hunting and wolves being killed by Wildlife Services will not be sustainable. A study led by Bradley Bergstrom in 2009 at Valdosta University ran computer simulated population viability scenarios in the two states when hunting was allowed.

“In 100 percent of 10,000 simulations for all conditions, the population declined, effectively, to extinction (i.e., 100 individuals, a size well below the 450 at which the (population segments) would need to be relisted) in less than 10 years,” concluded Bergstrom.

“The settlement does not require U.S. Fish and Wildlife to immediately start using the best science and allows Idaho and Montana to do whatever they want,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds. “This settlement is unenforceable and removes federal and state actions from court jurisdiction.”

The decision has not only left the future of wolves in the hands of policy makers far removed from their struggle on the ground, but has managed to split the solidarity of groups unifying their strength for the protection of wildlife. Dividing to conquer has long been the strategy of the federal government. Let’s hope this does not signal a trend in future efforts.

The settlement has yet to be approved by Judge Donald Molloy. A hearing scheduled for March 24 at the U.S. District Courthouse at 201 East Broadway in Missoula.

Defenders of Wildlife wants to know what you think about the decision. Let them know here.


Send a letter to your representatives asking them not to support Montana Rep. Denny Rehberg’s bill that would strip federal protections for gray wolves across the country.


Photo from:

courtesy of Tracy Brooks/USFWS


Duane B.
.4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Past Member
Susan Lane4 years ago

why do they have the wolves so much

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

LMj Sunshine

Thank you for article.

teresa f.
teresa floyd5 years ago

Here is a question
Why does the congress or anyone else get the say in what gets killed and what doesn't
Like the one gentleman said " after all the animals are gone who will be there next target"
I am thinking it will be all of us.

richa blue akasha
Raiin Blue5 years ago

I'm outside US and cant help much fight this..But Please dont give up!! Keep the fight on~ all my blessings to those who stand up-fighting back ruthless evil and corrupt "law" and deepest thank you! For making these voices heard so far

richa blue akasha
Raiin Blue5 years ago

Ruthless evil murderers..I hope people realize now what they have vote for..:( evil politics just to kill ...bastards

Krista T.
Krista Tackett5 years ago

The very sad and devastating problem here is that the delisting of wolves was done and caused by the Congress of the United States AND the President of the United States And the RANCHER - Salazar - appointed by Obama to head the Department of Interior/BLM - which is over the management and control of wildlife ! and Obama knows every damn thing that is going on and being done to the wolves in this Country as doesn't give a damn about it ! Not until WE - THE WOLF ADVOCATES - can make sure it is known during his campaign -and use it against him ! And that needs to be our mission and objective !! Let the entire Country know what was done by Congress and the President behind their backs and the Brutality they leashed upon the wolves !!

Anton K.
Past Member 5 years ago

"After these monsters killed everything already, what will be the next they will kill."

Us, of course!

Dianna Posner
Dianna Posner5 years ago

All involved State, Federal,and State Wildlife Agencies are guilty of trying to slaughter the wolves. They have no intention to manage, but exterminate them as nuisance pests, along with the coyote,skunk, weasel, and jack rabbit. They are also guilty of perpetuating the anti- wolf mentality with info and stories meant to frighted small children. For the extremists using the wolf as a scape goat to justify killing and to vent their hatred, all these agencies have done is give them a legal right to do it. Facebook has a page 'Kill all the Wolves'. The only way I know of to deal with extremists is to make it personal. At this point greed seems to be the motivating force, so anti-greed should be the cure. I'm boycotting all things Montanan, Idaho, and any other state that chooses to follow them. They will get no monies from my family or friends for tourism, beef or otherwise to finance their slaughter of wolves. There are a lot of people now doing this, since many elected officials refused to listen to them. I don't know what the DOW can do after agreeing to not fight the wolf issue in court until whatever date. We form an activist network, being more visible, and working to find solutions for ranchers that work. There's always a solution. It just has to be found. As for the extremists, I put them in a category called hate groups, and there's no working with that mentality. This was done for purely political reasons. The last time I looked public lands were not just for the ent