Following in her predecessor’s footsteps, freshman U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney is attempting to override the Endangered Species Act legislatively to put Wyoming’s wolves back under state control.

On several occasions since 2014, Wyoming’s congressional delegates have unsuccessfully attempted to “delist” wolves as a federally protected threatened species. Introduced this week, the Cheney-sponsored bill, like past iterations of legislation, is collaborative with Great Lakes-states politicians trying to regain jurisdictions over their wolf populations.

“Wyoming should be able to manage the gray wolf without outside interference,” the congresswoman said in a statement. “This bill will stop the ‘management by litigation’ culture that has done so much damage to our state.”

Cheney did not respond to interview requests Friday.

The bill would not only force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s hand in ceding control of wolves to Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, but also prohibit future lawsuits challenging delisting.

The bill was introduced while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit is still mulling whether to reverse a 2014 district court judge’s ruling that restored federal protections for Wyoming’s 300-some gray wolves. Oral arguments were exchanged in September.

A ruling could come any day, said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso, whose 2012 lawsuit over Wyoming’s wolves prevailed two years later in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

“Rather than trusting the courts, they’ve decided to move forward with this legislative approach,” Preso said. “I don’t know what it indicates, that Wyoming hasn’t put its faith in the courts and instead wants to do an end run around them.”

Gov. Matt Mead supports the congressional approach, policy advisor David Willms said.

“Really at this point we’re just waiting on the circuit court to make a decision,” Willms said, “and we’ll be following the delegation’s actions.”

It’s too early to say, he said, if the new Congress and Trump administration will help the wolf bill’s chance of success.

“You can look through the past 40-plus years of the Endangered Species Act and there are only handful of times that Congress has come in and changed the status of a species,” Willms said.

The tactic has worked before for wolves, however: Montana and Idaho’s populations were brought under state jurisdiction via congressional order.

Wolf numbers have grown steadily since Wyoming lost its ability to manage them, which marked the end of legal hunting. An April 2016 estimate of 382 animals was 25 percent more than the last full year of state jurisdiction and near the highest level since wolves were reintroduced in the mid-1990s.

Conflicts with livestock in 2016 were also at record levels, with much of the bloodshed occurring in the “predator zone” where wolves could be killed without limit any time of year when Wyoming was in charge.

Wyoming’s wolf plan was found to be deficient because of a lack of a legally enforceable population buffer. State officials managed the non-Yellowstone wolf population above the basement level permitted —10 breeding pairs as 100 wolves — but insisted that the buffer be a voluntary measure.

One Jackson conservationist said Wyoming could have taken a more timely approach to resolving the wolf dispute.

“I think if Wyoming had went to a statewide trophy game plan for wolves, and got rid of the predator classification, that the state would have been managing wolves long ago,” said Chris Colligan, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition’s wildlife program coordinator. “Instead they’re trying a legislative end run, which has so far not worked.”

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, or @JHGNGenviro.

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(8) comments

Sam Lobo

This is about these welfare environmental lawyers abusing the Endangered Species Act.... They do so for EAJA dollars. You see these social leach’s know they can Judge shop and get Judges like Molloy that will rule in their favor

“EAJA puts a cap of $125 an hour on attorneys’ fees unless the court determines an increase is justified due to increase in cost of living or a “special factor,” as the law states. The Supreme Court determined “special factors” to be attorneys with distinctive knowledge or specialized skills pertaining to the litigation in question (Baier, 2012, p. 37). This special factor clause is used routinely to justify amounts well over the $125 cap. In most environmental cases, environmental lawyers are seen as specialists and thus paid upwards of $300 per hour (Baier, 2012, p. 41). Budd-Falen found the average EAJA reimbursement in Endangered Species Act cases was $490.73 per hour, and got as high as $775 per hour. Some courts are blatantly ignoring the statutory cap and redefining the “special factor” clause. The market value for private lawyers determines most fees when most of the layers working for these non-profits would make much less for their in-house work (Baier, 2012, p. 41).”

Sam Lobo

The real villain is the fake environmental groups that abuse the ESA for EAJA dollars. Manual delisting is just a Band-Aid on one of the biggest waste of tax dollars in the name of "endangered species" REFORM of the act and the process that allows activist Judges like Molloy to dole out $700 per hour pay checks to these agenda driven anti-ranching anti-hunting bigots!

Jay Westemeier

Until Wyoming can provide irrefutable evidence that wolves are "causing great harm to the state", these ramblings are nothing more than political and backwoods macho driven opinions. Wyoming politicians continue to throw smoke screens by headlining insignificant issues to cover for their failings on policies that have major social and economic impact on the state. And some of the state's citizens continue to be blinded by these smoke screens. It's both laughable and pitiful.

Sam Lobo

Do you want to know what is laughable and pitiful? The standard wolf hugging mantra is to act as if confirmed depredations are the only thing ranchers have to worry about. Those that think the only damage done by wolves is the confirmed depredations are fools OR they are the ones trying to hoodwink you...... confirmed depredations are only a small fraction of true depredation. Dr Mech (wolf hugger) puts it at only ONE in six.......

Then you have fixing fences, lacerated livestock from running through those fences. Lost sleep thinking about what the morning will bring.... Those that fall for the "confirmed" depredations as being true rancher loses are either gullible OR the one spreading such nonsenses. A many of ranchers have been told that a wolf had ate there pet or livestock .... BUT, did it kill it? They have to prove signs of struggle in order to have a depredation "confirmed". When calves are ate from head to tail..... it’s hard to confirm a dead calf when a pack of wolves ate everything and all you have left is an angry mother cow with lacerations from running through fences and the loss of the dead calf AND their current pregnancy. Yes, cows will abort their pregnancy when they are running for their lives and complete stress and panic from the bawling of the calf as it is ate alive. These same people expect ranchers to absorb the costs to move cattle to safer places NIGHTLY. Only ranchers understand how edgy and hard to work with cattle that have been stressed by wolves can be….this does not only affect the dead ones! General Lose of weight for yearlings that are raised in a wolf saturated environment is common knowledge.

Its absolutely disgusting that these radical groups abuse the Endangerd Species act for an animal that is not and never has been endangered. They do so for greed and bigotry. Most of the worst offenders have a “donate now” button that they are pimping. BUT, the worst of the worst is the Welfare Environmental Lawyers that abuse the ESA for EAJA dollars. REFORM of the Endangered Species Act is needed badly.

Support Congresswoman Cheney (R), Senator Baldwin (D) ETC and their efforts at reforming the Endangered Species Act and stopping the current abuse. They already had a good base of support out west & recent lawsuit will be the final straw...... Disgusting people that pimp wolves controversy needs to be held accountable..... we all know that controversy gets "donate now" buttons pressed and provides cover for abuse of the ESA. When the new Congress and Senate get around to environmental issues the stuff that comes out of the south end of the wolf looking north will hit the fan......

Chad guenter

Not a fan of any Cheney, but this is one issue I fully support. I have already written the incoming Trump admin. about the wolf and grizzly bear issue, I hope he will do what needs to be done and QUICKLY.

Great comment robb cadwell, I agree wholeheartedly!

som sai

I'd love to head on up to Wyoming and hunt wolves without needing a license, like you used to be able to do. I've heard wolves are one of those "in the first hundred days" kind of issues.

Of course we still have a long way to go. I'd like to see bounties paid for by the NRDC, CBD and all their ilk.

Glenn Graham

Liz Cheney supporting her special interest groups like all republicans. We all know the state cant be trusted to manage the wolves "without outside interference". Lets hope the outside interference stays.

Monica Burke

Agree, thank you.

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