Commentary: Losing credibility in the wolf debate

The wolf is now at our door. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy's decision to return wolves to federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in Idaho and Montana will unleash the collective anger of hunters, ranchers and states' rights advocates. Molloy's ruling, as inevitable as it was, destroys the credibility and political clout of state wildlife agencies, the Obama administration and political leaders who sought a resolution to the deeply polarized wolf debate.

The region is on the edge of a new, long, ugly chapter in the wolf reintroduction story. I expect a new round of civil disobedience. "Shoot, shovel and shut-up" may again become the battle cry.

The Idaho Legislature, along with Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, will spend countless hours - and perhaps dollars - on hopeless lawsuits based on their view of the powers left with the states by the 10th Amendment. Montana will join them, and few state politicians on either side of the aisle will dare to challenge them.

That has long been the approach of Wyoming's leaders in both parties, and it has worked pretty well for them. But it has been Wyoming's unwillingness to accept the minimal requirements the federal government believes necessary to delist wolves that has caused the current impasse.

Most legal observers were not surprised with Molloy's judgment that the most powerful environmental law ever written does not allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list wolves in one state and delist them in the neighboring one in the same range. The feds tried to finesse the issue along the lines that a majority of people in Idaho and Montana could support.

"Even if the Service's solution is pragmatic, or even practical, it is at its heart a political solution that does not comply with the ESA," Molloy said.

To read the complete column, visit www.idahostatesman.com.