The Center for Biological Diversity and Howling for Wolves filed a lawsuit this week against the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), challenging the agency’s failure to provide a formal opportunity for public comment on recently approved rules establishing wolf hunting and trapping.
The conservation groups are seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the opening of hunting and trapping seasons this fall.
“The state rushed to issue wolf hunting and trapping rules without giving people a real chance to voice their opinions,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Minneapolis-based attorney with the center. “Especially considering the tremendous controversy around hunting and trapping of Minnesota’s wolves, state officials should have followed the law carefully to make sure they fully understood how the public felt about their decision.”
The groups say Minnesota’s 2001 wolf-management plan provided that wolves would not be hunted or trapped for five years after any removal of their Endangered Species Act protection, but the state legislature eliminated those safeguards last year by passing a budget bill that included a rider authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to open wolf hunting if the agency first provided an opportunity for public comment.
In January 2012, the wolves’ federal protection endangered species status was removed. The lawsuit charges that instead of opening a formal comment period, the DNR offered only an online survey. The groups claim more than 75 percent of respondents opposed the wolf hunt and of 7,351 responses, only 1,542 people supported a wolf season.
Minnesota’s wolf hunting season will take place over the months of November through January, as established by the Minnesota DNR. The season could end earlier if the target harvest of 400 wolves is reached before the end of January. Wolf hunting is scheduled to begin Nov. 3 with the opening of the deer firearms season. The state’s rules provide that 6,000 licenses will be sold.
“Wolves already die at high rates from many causes, including human intolerance and persecution,” said Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves and resident of Minnetonka. “Minnesotans benefit economically, culturally and ecologically by having wolves in the wild. As a state, we have so much to gain by keeping wolves undisturbed.”
The lawsuit filed this week asks the Minnesota Court of Appeals to prevent implementation of wolf hunting and trapping rules until the court can issue its decision in the case.
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The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 375,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.
Howling for Wolves was created to be a voice for wild wolves. It aims to educate the public about Minnesota’s wolf population and let people know how they can take action to keep wild wolves in a self-sustaining existence. For more information: www.howlingforwolves.org.