Environmentalists Threaten to Sue Montana Over New Wolf Laws

Threat of legal action comes as Republican lawmakers and conservative hunting groups push to curb wolf numbers

By Associated Press
Shutterstock photo

HELENA — A coalition of environmental advocacy groups threatened Wednesday to sue the state of Montana if it implements new laws passed earlier this year permitting the snaring of wolves and expanding trapping seasons, which they say could pose a threat to the state’s grizzly bear and lynx populations.

Grizzly bears and Canada lynx, both federally protected under the Endangered Species Act, could be injured or killed by snares and other traps set for wolves, according to Earthjustice, an environmental advocacy group, which sent a notice of intent to sue on behalf of several organizations, including the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Clearwater, Humane Society of the United States, International Wildlife Coexistence Network, Sierra Club, Western Watersheds Project, Wilderness Watch and Wolves of the Rockies.

The group said it would file a lawsuit against the state in 60 days if the state failed to put in place rules that would protect the grizzly and lynx populations.

“Montana’s expansion of strangulation snares and other traps is an appalling attack on the wolf population, but many other imperiled animals will also die,” Andrea Zaccardi, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement, calling the new laws unscientific.

The threat of legal action comes as hunting policies in some states this year took an aggressive turn, as Republican lawmakers and conservative hunting groups pushed to curb wolf numbers. In neighboring Idaho, a new law could lead to killing 90% of the 1,500 wolves in the state.

Republican lawmakers who control the Montana Legislature overwhelmingly supported several bills earlier this year to allow the use of snares, extend the trapping season, allow night hunting, and other measures meant to significantly decrease the state’s wolf population.

Supporters of the measures said the state’s wolves threaten ranchers’ livestock and compete with hunters over elk, deer and other big game.

The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is set to meet Thursday to discuss new rules to implement the laws.

In a report by the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks released last week, department officials acknowledged that expanding the trapping season and using snares “pose a substantial risk to non-target species, including lynx and grizzlies.”

The commission is considering rules aimed at mitigating the risk to other species, including limiting the use of snares to private property and implementing several safety precautions, such as requiring that snares be fitted with a breakaway device rated to 1,000 pounds (450 kilograms) or less.

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