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Know the West

Wolf wars enter next round

  As the fallout settles from federal Judge William Downes' decision ordering that nearly 200 introduced wolves be removed from Yellowstone and Idaho, members of the environmental community who have been at each other's throats are putting aside their differences and preparing to appeal the decision (HCN, 12/22/97: Judge says wolf reintroduction was illegal).

Immediately following this decision, attorney Doug Honnold of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, who'd argued on behalf of the Audubon Society for increased protection for the wolves in Idaho, found himself under attack.

On Christmas Day, Earthjustice (formerly known as the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) got a double whammy in the form of opinion pieces in newspapers. Thomas McNamee (the Montana author who wrote The Return of the Wolf to Yellowstone) criticized the case and indirectly chastised Honnold in a column in The New York Times. Then, in the Missoulian, long-time reintroduction proponent Renee Askins attacked him personally.

"Honnold," Askins writes, "not only shunned the practical while pursuing the pure, he managed to risk the lives of nearly 200 animals in the pursuit of his legal pretensions. As a lawyer he might feel victorious; as a conservationist a more appropriate emotion might be shame."

For his part, Honnold tries to make it clear that he resented being forced to consolidate cases with the Farm Bureau Federation, a conservative ranchers' group which tried to block the reintroduction of the wolves three years ago. The bureau, he says, was attempting to stop wolves altogether, while Honnold maintains he simply wanted to make sure wolves which had already colonized Idaho retained protection under the Endangered Species Act.

"The only people who are happy about this decision," Honnold said, "are the Farm Bureau and the radical right. The bottom line is we didn't request the removal of any wolves."

The Farm Bureau has also made an effort to distance itself from Earthjustice and Audubon. "The environmental community is complaining ... because they didn't get their remedy, which ultimately would have resulted in full protection of all wolves," says Wyoming bureau vice president Larry Bourret. "Instead they got the Farm Bureau's remedy - send the wolves back to Canada."

Honnold says that he's looking forward to getting back in the courtroom, along with Defenders of Wildlife and others, to ensure that the wolves stay put.

Copyright © 1998 HCN and Dan Oko