U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy appeared to show his hand when he rejected the federal government’s motion Wednesday to delay a hearing on a suit to reverse wolf delisting.
The hearing is set for May 29 in Missoula and Molloy’s main argument for not delaying it was that the federal government knew as far back as February that environmentalists were going to challenge the decision in March to remove wolves from the endangered species list.
But since March 28 at least 39 of the more than 1,500 wolves have been killed, which environmentalists say bolsters their argument that wolves should remain federally protected. Molloy also expressed concern.
"The court is unwilling to risk more deaths by delaying its decision on plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction," Molloy wrote in his court order.
Federal officials argue that most of the wolves would have been killed even had they still been under federal control. Wolves have been growing at a rate of 20 percent or more since they were reintroduced in 1995 in the face of 20 percent annual mortalities, supporters of delisting argue.
But Molloy seemed to side with environmentalists when he pointed out the federal lawyers acknowledge that as many as 10 of the wolves killed would not have died if federal protection remained.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Molloy read the story of wolf b253 written by environmentalist Louisa Willcox, who also happens to be the wife of the lead attorney for environmentalists in the lawsuit Doug Honnold. B253 was a former member of the well-known Druid Pack in Yellowstone National Park who was shot the day after delisting by gunners on snowmobilers near an elk feeding ground. It was not hunting’s finest hour.
Just for full disclosure, I’ve known Louisa since 1986, stayed at her home a few times and she has stayed at mine. My wife Tina and I went with her and Doug to Kamchatka in 1992 along with a group of scientists.
No matter what the science or even the law determines, the actions of people who have gone out of their way to kill wolves can’t help but influence the situation. Their impatience could keep they and their hunting buddies from hunting wolves this fall.