Wyo sues Interior over wolf documents
By TOM MORTON
Star-Tribune staff writer
Wolves continue to multiply, and trees continue to die for more paper in
the newest legal salvo between Wyoming and the federal government over
reintroduction of Canis lupus.
The Department of Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service in November
the state's wolf management plan, and now Wyoming demands the release of
least 69 undisclosed records or groups of records to explain the
according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday by Wyoming
General Pat Crank.
"If the court forces (the Fish and Wildlife Service) to produce
documents, it shows the fallacy of their rejecting the plan put forward
the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission," he said.
It's not that the state hasn't tried to get the documents.
On April 22, the state sued the Department of Interior to force it to
immediately approve the state's wolf management plan and move forward
delisting the gray wolf in the West.
Meanwhile, the Attorney General's Office corresponded with the
for four months since January to request the withheld documents under
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), according to the complaint.
Crank knows the documents exist based on a Department of Interior
correspondence among state and federal officials, he said Friday. The
already has much of that information.
But Crank doesn't know what the undisclosed documents state, and he's
increasingly frustrated about getting them, he said.
On May 20, the Department of Interior FOIA Appeals Officer Julia Laws
that the department would deny the state's request to release the
according to an exhibit in the lawsuit.
"The Department hopes, however, that you will defer action until
substantive decision has been reached on your appeal," Laws wrote.
By Tuesday, the state had deferred long enough.
"We appealed their decision," Crank said Friday. "They
never acted on our
Crank signed off on the lawsuit on Wednesday and filed it in U.S.
Court on Thursday. The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge
The FOIA lawsuit is the latest round in the decade-long conflict over
In 1995, the Department of Interior reintroduced the gray wolf into
Yellowstone National Park under the Endangered Species Act, and the
multiplied past expectations in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.
Wyoming's Game and Fish Commission crafted a plan calling for the
remain protected in the national parks and adjacent wilderness areas,
would be treated as predatory animals throughout the rest of the state.
Ten of 11 Department of Interior wolf biologists concluded that the
along with Idaho's and Montana's plans -- would protect the wolf,
to the lawsuit.
The Endangered Species Act, Crank said, requires that decisions about
delisting endangered species must be "based solely on the best
and scientific data available."
But the department and the Fish and Wildlife Service rejected the
Nov. 4, 2003, for other reasons.
Crank cited a Jan. 15 statement from Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant
secretary of the Interior, who spoke to the Legislature's Joint Interim
Committee on Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources about
"From a strictly science perspective, yes, the plans were deemed
Crank said, recounting Hoffman's comments. "It's the legal
that prompts us to say no at this time. Our legal analysis was based on
litigation risk management principles."
Crank has no idea what "litigation risk management
principles" means, he
Nor does he understand the term "pre-decisional," a term
used for 60 agency
documents withheld by the Department of Interior, he said.
These documents were prepared from Sept. 5, 2002, 13 months before
and Fish Commission submitted its plan to the department, through Jan.
2004, three months after the department rejected the plan, according to
The department also stated that it was withholding nine agency
on "attorney-client privilege," according to the lawsuit.
Both of these arguments violate the FOIA, and Wyoming wants the court
order the Department of Interior to turn over all the records requested
Wyoming, according to the lawsuit.
Reporter Tom Morton can be reached at (307) 266-0592 or at
Some emails are sent out solely for informational purposes
and are not always issues I support or reflect my beliefs.
NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, any copyrighted
material herein is distributed without profit or payment to those who
expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit
research and educational purposes only. For more information go to: