Tuesday, October 28, 2008

FWS Reopens Northern Rocky Gray Wolf Delisting Rule

Oct 28: On February 8, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), published a proposed rule to establish a distinct population segment (DPS) of the gray wolf (Canis lupus) in the Northern Rocky Mountains (NRM) of the United States and to remove the gray wolf in the NRM DPS from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended (Act) (72 FR 6106). On February 27, 2008, FWS issued a final rule establishing and delisting the NRM gray wolf DPS (73 FR 10514).

Several parties filed a lawsuit challenging the final rule and asking to have it enjoined. On July 18, 2008, the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana enjoined the FWS from implementing the final delisting rule, after concluding that Plaintiffs were likely to prevail on merits of their claims. In light of the decision, FWS asked the court to vacate the final rule and remand it back to FWS. On October 14, 2008, the court issued an order vacating the February 27, 2008, final rule (73 FR 10514) and remanding it back to the Service for further consideration.

FWS has now issued a new Federal Register notice [73 FR 63926-63932, 10/28/08] indicating that it intends to reconsider the 2007 proposed rule and issue a new listing determination. FWS said it is seeking information, data, and comments from the public regarding the 2007 proposal with an emphasis on new information relevant to this action; the issues raised by the Montana District Court; and the issues raised by the September 29, 2008, ruling of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia with respect to the Western Great Lakes gray wolf DPS [See WIMS 9/30/08].

FWS notes that if parties have previously submitted comments, they do not need to resubmit them because they have already incorporated them in the public record and will fully consider them in the final decision. New comments on the proposal must be submitted by the close of business on November 28, 2008. The area affected by includes all of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming and the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon and parts of north-central Utah.

Louisa Willcox, senior wildlife advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a brief statement saying, "This new proposal does little to address the fundamental problem of removing Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the Northern Rockies -- there simply aren't enough wolves yet. It’s frustrating to be so close to a sustainable population in the region and then to have the Bush Administration push a slipshod proposal undoing this great conservation success story in the 11th hour."

Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, issued a release saying, “It is shocking -- although not entirely surprising -- that the FWS is still trying to push a failed delisting rule out the door before the Bush administration turns out the lights. This hasty action undermines the serious work, consideration and cooperation among all stakeholders that is necessary before proposing any new rule. Rushing to ram this flawed and repackaged rule does not give the Fish and Wildlife Service time to address the flaws underscored by the court when it rebuked the agency earlier this year. . . "

Access the latest FR announcement (
click here). Access a news release from FWS (click here). Access the docket for this rulemaking to review and submit comments and access documents (click here). Access the FWS NRM Gray Wolf website for extensive information (click here). Access the statement from NRDC (click here). Access a release from Defenders (click here). [*Wildlife]