Feds want wolf lawsuit to be returned to state
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: November 27, 2012
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is attempting to transfer Earthjustice’s wolf lawsuit home to a Wyoming court.
Filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the suit, if successful, would pull wolf management out of state hands while re-establishing Endangered Species Act protection for the controversial predators. Earth-justice, which represents Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity, will file a brief opposing the transfer within the next week, Earthjustice managing attorney Tim Preso said Monday.
Fish and Wildlife Service’s motion to transfer, issued Nov. 20, argues that three “public interest” factors “firmly support” transferring the case to Wyoming. In a 30-page document, federal attorneys contend that the Wyoming district’s familiarity with the issue, the “relative congestion of the court calendar” and local interests favor the transfer.
“In sum, this case implicates substantial local interests and matters that have been litigated in Wyoming for decades,” the motion reads.
State officials have gone on record supporting a change of venue.
Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead issued a statement in support of the change of venue.
“This lawsuit really is about Wyoming and what happens in Wyoming, and the lawsuit, the arguments and the decision should take place in Wyoming, not in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
Preso declined to comment on the implications if the request for a change of venue were to be granted.
The Earthjustice managing attorney did say that Fish and Wildlife Service would “essentially be invoking Judge Johnson’s prior decision.”
In 2010, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ruled that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should not have rejected Wyoming’s wolf management plan. Johnson also threw out a Fish and Wildlife Service requirement that Wyoming manage wolves as “trophy game” throughout the state.
The litigation kicked around until this year, when Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed off on a plan that allows managed trophy game hunting of wolves in about 15 percent of the northwest corner of the state. Wolves are managed as predators in the rest of Wyoming, and can be killed without a license and by almost any method.
Wyoming’s inaugural Canis lupus hunt kicked off Oct. 1, and 36 wolves have been killed to date in the managed hunt. Another 18 wolves have been tallied killed in the state’s predator zone. Going into the hunting season, there were an estimated 300 wolves in Wyoming.
—The Associated Press contributed to this story.