VICTORY IN IDAHO! - On Wednesday, January 24, U.S. District Court Judge Winmill granted the motion filed by the state, the National Trappers Association, and the Idaho Trappers Association to reconsider and granted the Summary Judgment Motion filed by the state and trappers dismissing the case against the state seeking restrictions on trapping.
This case came down to the testimony of Bridget Fahey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In the court’s ruling, Judge Winmill said Fahey’s testimony makes it clear the agency views the document known as the Incidental Take Statement (ITS) as exempting from the Endangered Species Act the incidental capture of lynx by Idaho trappers targeting bobcat.
This is a tremendous win for trappers and sportsmen in the state! A loss could have resulted in severe restrictions on trapping in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions in northern Idaho. The plaintiffs were asking for jaw spread restrictions, 24-hour checks, and the elimination of snares and body-grip traps throughout lynx habitat. Wolf trapping in these regions would have essentially been eliminated.
The NTA, along with our affiliate state associations, intervene in these lawsuits out of concern lynx-related restrictions would limit trapping for other species. As in Montana, the NTA was the only national organization or alliance to intervene on behalf of trappers in this lawsuit.
This victory also demonstrates why we refused to settle the lawsuit in Montana. Its extremely frustrating that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks chose to settle this case around both the NTA and MTA as intervenors. The facts of the two cases are nearly identical. The ITS applies to all states, not just Idaho. I will always believe we would have prevailed in Montana also. Unfortunately, due to the choices of MFW&P, we were denied the opportunity to argue this in court.
Hats off to the state of Idaho and the Idaho Game and Fish Department for standing firm on the side of science and professional wildlife management. Also, congratulations to the Idaho Trappers Association. The ITA were outstanding partners throughout and did an excellent job in both representing the trappers in Idaho and also understanding that any restrictions they agreed to would become the new “standard” for the next state to face these lawsuits.
Staying with the lynx theme—more good news! On January 11, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it had completed a status review of Canada lynx populations and determined that the species no longer requires protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a result, the agency will be moving forward with the formal process of delisting the species. The agency report states “we find no compelling evidence, based on verified historical records, of major range contraction or dramatic declines in the number of resident lynx in the distinct population segment as a whole,” the agency concluded. “In fact, there are currently more resident lynx in some parts of the distinct population segment (Maine and Colorado) than likely occurred historically and, in those areas and in Minnesota, there are more resident lynx now than was suspected when the distinct population was listed.”
Further, the report says, “some areas suspected to have lost historical lynx populations may have been (and perhaps are now) naturally capable of supporting resident lynx only intermittently, as would be expected in marginal habitats
at the southern periphery of the species’ range.”
The next step is for the service to publish a proposed rule in the Federal Register, receive public comments, conduct a peer review, and then announce a final decision.
No timeline has been set for when lynx protections could be lifted. Of course, lawsuits are sure to follow, and this delisting will no doubt be delayed in the courts for the foreseeable future.
How would delisting affect trappers? It would remove any federal mandate to maintain or impose restrictions and would prevent future ESA lawsuits over the incidental capture of lynx in other states. The states would be free to manage their lynx populations the same as they do any other species.
Some states may choose to maintain or implement restriction in their effort to manage lynx, and this is how it should be. The management of wildlife is a state issue. History has proven time and again the states do an excellent job. Wildlife populations are healthy and abundant, with many species at historical highs. This is the result of sound management by professionals at the state level. You need look no further than the wolf issue to see the consequences of the feds and the courts meddling in the management of our wildlife.
Continuing with the positive news: on February 2, Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle announced his resignation from the animal rights organization. The
Washington Post reported days earlier that Pacelle had been accused of sexual
harassment by several of his employees since becoming CEO in 2004. The day
before his resignation, a majority of the Humane Society’s board of directors
voted to retain him as CEO despite the allegations. However, this prompted
seven resignations from board members who wanted him out, and several
prominent donors to the organization subsequently announced that they
wouldn’t be giving to the organization if Pacelle remained in charge.
On that note, I hope you all have had a safe and successful season.