Wolf case has another day in court

St. Paul — As some state legislators push for a five-year moratorium on the state’s wolf hunting and trapping seasons, another challenge to the hunt continues within the state court system. Late last week, the Minnesota

Court of Appeals heard a case brought by two animal rights groups – the Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves – that challenges how the state DNR proceeded in implementing the hunt.

Officials say the Appellate Court could issue its decision within a month or so, but no firm timeline is in place.

According to a suit brought by the groups, the DNR failed to provide an adequate opportunity for public input on the matter.

“What will it take for the DNR, a public agency, to listen to the public,” Dr. Maureen Hackett, founder of Howling for Wolves, asks in a press release from the group. “The law required opportunity for public comment, and the DNR did not provide that.”

Last fall, the state Supreme Court denied a petition from the groups requesting an injunction to halt the hunting and trapping seasons.

The state’s wolf hunt was established by the state Legislature early in 2012, and the DNR finalized the details of the hunt in July. In January, the second of two harvest seasons closed; the total kill of wolves was 413. The state’s estimated wolf population is in the neighborhood of 3,000.

“We still stand by that we had a very responsible, successful season (and) that we used the right procedures (to implement the hunt),” DNR Fish and Wildlife Division Director Ed Boggess said earlier this week.

The rule-making process used to set up the wolf hunt was the same as that used for other hunting seasons, Boggess said. That process was created in the 1990s when the department realized it was needed as an option to expedite the season-setting process in some cases, he said.

“We followed all the proper procedures (in setting up the wolf season),” Boggess said.

While conservation group leaders in the state supportive of the wolf hunting and trapping seasons have criticized the CBD and Howling for Wolves for wasting state dollars defending the lawsuit, Hackett says in the press release that it’s the other way around.

“It’s unfortunate that after millions of taxpayer dollars spent over nearly 40 years to recover the wolf population, the DNR thought it was appropriate to rush a wolf hunt without providing an opportunity for public comment that is required by law and directed in their own wolf management plan,” she said.

The groups say the majority of Minnesotans do not support the hunt.

Meanwhile, in 2012 the state spent a record $150,000-plus paying residents for livestock and pet losses caused by wolves.

According to a federal wolf recovery plan, wolves in Minnesota, removed from the federal endangered species list about a year ago, were considered “recovered” more than a decade ago.

There’s currently also a federal lawsuit, brought by the Humane Society of the United States and other groups, that challenges wolf delisting in the Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan). That suit says delisting was premature, before wolves could be recovered in a significant portion of their “historical range.”

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