By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
Firing the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could help save Wyoming wolves and grizzlies, according to a petition filed in U.S. District Court by a Chicago attorney turned environmental activist.
USFWS Director Martha Williams isn’t fit for her job, which has led to shoddy management of and inadequate protection for wolves and grizzlies in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, according to a petition filed last month in U.S. District Court in Illinois by Robert Aland of Chicago.
Aland is no stranger to litigating over wildlife issues. He was involved in previous efforts to oppose state management policies of the large carnivores. Environmental activists claim the state’s policies are too heavy-handed and geared toward killing, rather than preserving, wolves and grizzlies.
Aland’s latest petition also names as a defendant U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
She’s Not A Scientist, Fire Her
Aland’s claim in the petition documents is straightforward: Williams is educated as an attorney, not a scientist.
By law, the head of the USFWS must be educated and experienced in practicing science, according to the claim. Williams has experience in environmental and wildlife management law and litigation. However, that she’s not a scientist has tainted the process of deciding whether and to what degree wolves and grizzlies in the Northern Rockies should be federally protected.
Aland and other environmentalists would like to see grizzlies remain under federal protection and to see full federal protection extended to wolves.
Different Levels Of Protection
Grizzlies are federally protected in all three Greater Yellowstone states – Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. So, there are no legal hunting season for them. It is legal to kill a grizzly bear in self-defense. However, both state and federal game managers will investigate each killing to rule if it was legitimate self-defense. The penalties are steep for killings that are ruled illegal.
Many in Wyoming have called for grizzly hunting seasons in the Cowboy State. A season was set for fall 2018, but was halted by a federal injunction.
Wolves also are fully protected in Yellowstone and Teton national parks. In the areas immediately outside the parks, the states allow licensed wolf hunting that is restricted by seasons and bag limits.
Outside of the licensed hunting zone in Wyoming, wolves may be killed on sight at any time without licenses or bag limits. A return to full federal protection for wolves in Wyoming would drastically change management of them here.
Other Lawsuits Pending
Grizzlies and wolves have been at the center of numerous lawsuits since the bears were granted federal protection in the 1970s and wolves were reintroduced into the Greater Yellowstone in the middle 1990s.
Earlier this year, a lawsuit filed by an alliance of environmental groups claimed full endangered species protection should be given to wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, ending wolf hunts in all three states.
More recently, the environmental group Wild Earth Guardians filed a lawsuit last month to halt Montana’s wolf hunts.