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Excluding ranchers from wolf case unjust

Capital Press July 2, 2021 - Editorial

A California judge last week issued one of the most disconcerting decisions involving wolves that weíve seen.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White of Oakland, Calif., is hearing a case related to efforts by environmentalists to put gray wolves back on the federal endangered species list.

But hereís the clinker: White decided to exclude from the case the people most directly impacted by wolves ó ranchers.

Environmental groups are represented. So are hunters, gun owners and the federal government. But ranchers were blocked from taking part, other than being allowed to file a friend of the court brief.

It should be noted that American ranchers have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in livestock and spent almost as much money trying to keep wolves away from their cattle and sheep.

The attacks have not been isolated. Wherever there are wolves, there are wolf problems as packs hunt down cattle and sheep and kill and injure guardian dogs.

Yet, according to the judge, the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International will be able to speak for ranchers.

We have nothing against the NRA or the Safari Club; we just think itís a misguided decision. Itís like asking a NASCAR driver to speak for a truck driver. They kind of do similar things, if you donít think about it too hard.

Maybe the judge figured ranchers would only add more of the same arguments to the case and that having actual experience dealing with wolves is no big deal. If so, he is wrong. Nothing can replace experience in a case such as this.

In the meantime, ranchers will be relegated to the peanut gallery as the judge ponders a case that will have a direct and potentially detrimental impact on their livelihoods.

What prompted this case was last yearís decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take the gray wolf off the list of animals protected by the federal Endangered Species Act. The agency determined that the population of gray wolves is growing everywhere. Across the northern tier of the U.S. and in other states, wolves have been flourishing.

What started with 96 wolves in Idaho and Yellowstone National Park has grown into thousands of wolves.

The decision to take wolves off the list of federally protected species and let states manage them was warranted by almost any measure. Yet environmental groups, which put their opinions over those of expert wildlife managers employed by the federal and state governments, maintain that the ďdefenselessĒ wolves must continue to be protected.

At the same time, ranchers continue to pay the price of having wolves around. And the judge in this most important case wonít let them take part.

Thatís just one more reason it is called a legal system and not a justice system.




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