If Wyo can't sue, who can?
Casper Star Tribune Editorial 7/26/04
The United States government says Wyoming doesn't have the
legal standing needed to sue over the feds' rejection of the
state's wolf management plan.
The reaction of Wyoming Attorney General Pat Crank was
understandable: If Wyoming can't sue, who can?
Crank was rightly troubled by the assertion made by documents
filed by the federal government this past week in U.S. District
In order for the gray wolf to be taken off the Endangered
Species list, states surrounding the recovery area --
Yellowstone National Park -- are required to have wolf
management plans in place that will ensure a sustainable
population. To comply with this requirement, Idaho and Montana
adopted plans that have since been approved by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. However, in January, the agency balked at
Wyoming's "dual status" plan, which would establish
wolves as trophy game animals only near Yellowstone and Grand
Teton national parks. In the rest of the state, wolves would be
given "predator" status, meaning they could be shot on
sight, any time of year.
The state's lawsuit alleges that Interior Secretary Gale
Norton and the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
violated the federal Administrative Procedures Act in rejecting
the state plan, and usurped Wyoming's sovereignty in its
implementation of the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. government is within its authority to accept or
reject the Wyoming plan based on its merit, but it has an
obligation to show that there are solid, scientific reasons for
By rejecting the notion that Wyoming lacks the legal standing
to question its decision, the federal government reinforces the
belief -- however true or not -- that it is blatantly arrogant
with regard to the states its actions affect.
The development of Wyoming's wolf management plan was in
reaction to a rapidly expanding wolf population. By Fish and
Wildlife's estimates, there were at least 174 wolves in 14 packs
living in Yellowstone National Park, and 76 to 88 wolves in
eight packs living in Wyoming outside the park by the end of
2003. Critics of the Wyoming plan complain that Wyoming's
insistence on dual status for wolves has prolonged the delisting
process, allowing more wolves to migrate farther from the
intended recovery area.
Now the federal government can share some of the criticism
for the delay.
Wyoming is directly affected by the wolf issue, and should
have a voice in any decision affecting its people, land or
resources. That includes the right to sue when compelled to do
Whether they work for the federal government, the state, or
the local dog catcher, public officials have a responsibility to
behave as servants of the public and not let political
sentiments cloud their actions and policies.