Wolf rider measured, proper

Montana Standard

by Opinion-EditorialnSkip Kowalski

Recently, Judge Donald Molloy ruled that the Tester/Simpson wolf delisting rider was constitutional. His ruling was a major step forward in returning the management of wolves to the state of Montana. Although we must remain cautiously optimistic, this is great news for wildlife conservation and all Montanans. Sadly, there are still some who continue to distort the facts regarding this legislative solution to an extremely complex problem.

Let’s set the record straight. Regardless of your political persuasion, credit goes to Sen. Jon Tester. He, assisted by Sen. Max Baucus, developed the language included in H.R. 1473, a federal funding bill. Credit also goes Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, who placed identical language in the House version along with limiting the law from judicial review.

Together, these legislators crafted a solution that permits wolves to be managed in Idaho and Montana while maintaining the integrity of the Endangered Species Act. We would note that Congressman Rehberg voted against H.R. 1473 and against delisting wolves.

In fact, when MWF staff met with the congressman’s staff in September of 2010, MWF urged him to advance legislation that was similar in scope to Simpson/Tester, and simply delist wolves through congressional fiat. We opposed any precedent setting attempt to amend the ESA especially given the overwhelming support it has nationwide.

The Tester/Simpson delisting rider was a necessary, measured and entirely appropriate action designed to bring conclusion to the never ending legal battles related to wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The science is crystal clear: Wolves have recovered.

As Judge Molloy noted in his 2010 ruling, what was needed was a political solution. Montana and Idaho had been held in limbo for far too long, and the citizens of those states engaged in the established processes designed to redress wrongs within our system of Government. We went to Congress.

The bi-partisan Tester/Simpson amendment passed because of the continued use of litigation, rather than the use of collaboration to solve a controversial problem. Senator Tester and Congressman Simpson listened to hunters, conservationists, and wildlife professionals and did what they were elected to do: serve the best interests of all Montanans and do what’s right for all wildlife.

The approach taken by Senator Tester follows the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Within that philosophy, one of the tenets is that we manage wildlife scientifically, while another tenet is that all wildlife belongs to the people, and shall be managed for both human use and enjoyment and the conservation of the species.

Under the Tester/Simpson law, the State of Montana still has to comply with the Endangered Species Act. That is entirely proper. We have a strong and proud tradition in Montana for being leaders in the adherence to the North American Model of Fish and Wildlife Conservation.

We are glad that Judge Donald Molloy has ruled in favor of the unprecedented action to congressionally delist a species only after all other avenues had failed. We are especially pleased that the courts have disallowed the injunction to stop the 2011 wolf hunting season. Hopefully this will serve as a lesson that extremism in wildlife management will be met with reason, compromise and a strong showing from the conservation majority in this state.

We commend Senator Tester, Senator Baucus and Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho for their dogged determination to do the right thing, the reasonable thing, and the scientifically valid thing.

Skip Kowalski is the vice president of issues for the Montana Wildlife Federation.