Friday, August 18, 2006

Federal court blocks state from killing wolves

Judge says lethal controls conflict with Endangered Species Act

Ryan Stutzman - THE-BEE

A federal judge has blocked the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' authority to kill wolves. U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued a preliminary injunction last week against a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) permit, which allowed the DNR to kill as many as 43 wolves in the state this year.

The DNR uses the permit to eliminate animals in packs suspected of preying on pets or livestock. Eighteen wolves had been killed under the authority of the permit this year when the injunction was issued Aug. 9, including one in southern Price County just two weeks ago.

Kollar-Kotelly – who is also the presiding judge on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court that oversees warrant requests for surveillance activities on suspected foreign intelligence agents inside the United States – reasoned that the USFWS permit conflicts with the Endangered Species Act.

"Simply put, the recovery of the grey wolf is not supported by killing 43 grey wolves," the judge wrote in her decision.

An animal-protection consortium led by the Humane Society of the United States brought the suit against the federal government, arguing that the USFWS was undermining federal wildlife protections. On its Web site, the Humane Society called the permit a "back-door attempt to authorize the killing" of wolves.

The order is expected to stoke passions locally, where wolves are often blamed for livestock disappearance and perceived declines in game populations, such as white-tailed deer. Hushed anecdotes about wolf poaching are fairly common in the area.

Shooting a wolf without proper authorization is a crime in Wisconsin and the other Great Lakes states with wolf populations. A Michigan man was sentenced to jail time and ordered to pay nearly $2,500 in fines and restitution last year after he was convicted of killing a wolf during the 2004 deer firearm season in the Upper Peninsula's Iron County.