Lawsuits may prey on wolf plans


Bringing wolves back to the West could hit a snag as both ranchers and environmentalists say they will sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Wilderness Society, Idaho Conservation League, Sierra Club and four other environmental groups notified Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt Sept. 7 that they will sue the agency within 60 days unless the Idaho portion of the plan is modified. Although the groups differ on the finer points of the plan, they all contend that introducing 15 Canadian wolves as an "experimental, non-essential population' - without the full protection of the Endangered Species Act - is a mistake.

Not only will the designation allow ranchers and federal officials to kill introduced wolves, they say, but it will allow the killing of any wolf that colonizes the area on its own.

"As soon as a wolf crosses I-90, it becomes open season," says Doug Honnold, Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund attorney. Honnold says he wants full legal protection for all wolves in the area. The environmentalists say they are targeting Idaho instead of Yellowstone because scientists have more evidence that wolves are already recolonizing the Idaho area on their own.

Meanwhile, the National Farm Bureau and its affiliates in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana say they will soon file their own 60-day notice of intent to sue, fearing wolf predation of livestock. The groups hope to stop the entire plan.

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