Sportsmen Taking Charge of Predator Problems

By: Toby Bridges

The wolf issue has received so much attention over the past year that it has gotten extremely difficult, if not impossible, to keep up with all that’s happening.  And it all started with the planned 2010 management (a.k.a. control) wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho that were nixed by a federal court in Missoula, MT last summer.  That’s when confrontations between staunch pro-wolf environmental groups and  sportsman-based organizations really began to heat up.  Those who supported so-called “wolf recovery” wanted more wolves – those who had grown weary of losing elk, moose and deer to uncontrolled wolf numbers, wanted fewer of the predators, far fewer.  Livestock producers who were more and more feeling the bite of the wolf also wanted wolf numbers drastically reduced.

Sportsmen and ranchers in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming pointed fingers at the state wildlife agencies, claiming that those agencies were purposely lying and downplaying the true number of wolves in the Northern Rockies.  Big game hunters and livestock producers who were feeling the losses challenged the “at least” count of about 1,700 wolves in the three states, proclaiming that there were “at least” 3,500 to 4,000.  On the other hand, pro-wolf organizations like the Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity pointed fingers at sportsmen and began challenging their right to hunt.  These groups felt that the wolves had more right to the region’s big game than the hunters who had financed wildlife conservation through the 1900s.  Those wanting more wolves felt there needed to be “at least” 5,000 or more wolves, in the Northern Rockies –  those who felt there were way too many wolves demanded that wolf numbers be reduced to the recovery goals established in the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan.  And that was 100 wolves, with a minimum of 10 breeding pairs in each of the three states, a total of 300 wolves and “at least” 30 breeding pairs.

Fingers were pointed at the Endangered Species Act, which many felt was broken beyond repair.  Back in Washington D.C. , Senators and Congressmen began to draft national legislation to amend the ESA to have the wolf removed from the protection of the act.  That didn’t set well with many pro-wolf citizens and especially environmental groups, who pointed at those politicians and accused them of trying to totally circumvent the purpose of the ESA – to save endangered animals and plant life.  Additional legislation was drafted, calling for wolf control hunts in Montana and Idaho only, then politicians began pointing fingers at each other, claiming that “their” bill or resolution was the best.

To sum it up, since this time last year there has been one heck of a lot of finger pointing and name calling – all over wolves.  Of all the comments about and accusations of ignoring science, grand theft, crooked politics, graft, manipulated wolf taxonomy, inflated egos, violations of the law, lies, fraud, and outright stupidity surrounding the wolf issue, one individual has been on the receiving end far more than anyone else – Judge Donald Molloy, of the U.S. District Court in Missoula, MT.

Many sportsmen of the Northern Rockies now feel that Molloy has abused his authority, to repeatedly decide in favor of environmental groups who have fought tooth and nail (with millions upon millions of dollars at risk) to prevent the control of ever growing wolf numbers.  Those who have witnessed the drastic decline in elk, moose and other big game populations since the wolves were transplanted here from north-central Canada now openly suspect that Judge Donald Molloy plays an integral role in the tangled web of lies, deceit and theft known as the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Project.  And the manner in which he tends to bend over backward, to seek the tiniest technicalities of the law, in order to justify decisions that fit in nicely with the pro-wolf agenda now has him under the public microscope.  An increasing segment of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming residents now want to know, “What’s in all of this for Molloy?”

One very wildlife conservation oriented individual who has had absolutely no problem sharing how he feels about Donald Molloy is Robert Fanning, of Pray, MT – the founder of the group known as the Friends of the Northern Yellowstone Elk Herd.

Judge Donald Molloy, of the U.S. District Court in Missoula, MT. Exactly whose interest is the judge looking out for?

He likens Molloy to “misguided and intellectually lazy Americans” that believe “Nature will sort this all out!” Fanning challenges, “So which is it your Honor?  Do you subscribe to 75 years of predator-prey ecosystem management from Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game, who say that 85 percent of all ungulate mortality is caused by predation…or do you prefer to embrace ecological fraud as your version of ‘Best Available Science’?”

Bob Fanning points out that the Lower 48 is not the vast expanse of wilderness that’s found in Alaska, Canada or Siberia.  But rather it is made up of relatively confined, small spaces, with people and commerce that Judge Molloy has failed to consider in his rulings.  He points at Yellowstone National Park as a shining example of wolf depredation, and the comment made by YNP Doug Smith…“we have the highest predator densities in all of North America”…as if Smith was proud of that condition.  He also is quick to share that before USFWS wrongfully dumped non-native Canadian wolves into this ecosystem, the Northern Yellowstone elk herd numbered right at 19,000.  Today, due to wolf depredation, and the loss of annual elk calf crops to wolves, today’s herd is down to about 4,000, and that it is getting older every year…likewise quickly reaching the average age where reproduction becomes more unlikely, and biologically closer to impossible.  And that has robbed sportsmen of managed hunting opportunities, and the local economy of much needed revenue.

“Did you ever consider your Honor that this extremist program has caused immense harm?  Are you aware Judge Molloy of Congress and their stated intent in 1988 to…Not Hurt Hunting…Not Hurt The Local Economies By Destroying A $237-Million (per year in Montana alone) Big Game Hunting Industry…To Not Impact The Already Endangered Grizzly Bear By Eradicating Its Prey Base And Displacing It From Its Sanctuary In Yellowstone Park…To Not Hurt Ranching?  Did the 5th Amendment ever matter to you Judge Molloy?  Did Congressional intent ever matter to you Judge Molloy?” challenges Fanning.

Like so many others in the Northern Rockies, Robert Fanning feels that this U.S. District Court judge has turned the 9th Circuit bench into a personal environmental police state, based on scientific fraud, which will force thousands of Americans to defend themselves and their property from Molloy’s extremist decisions.  This Montana resident, who has thrown his hat into the gubernatorial ring for 2012, hopes that Don Molloy has the opportunity to read this, and would like to ask, “Are you going to end this insanity by tossing out a case (forced wolf introduction) that never had any Constitutional merit in the first place?”

He points out that Congress made the Endangered Species Act, which he says Molloy has abused and wrongly interprets, and that they can amend it and clarify it any time they so choose.

The manner in which Molloy shut down the opportunity for a wolf management/control hunt in Montana and Idaho last year (2010) likely stands out as the case which has turned public sentiment against him, and even more against wolves.  State and federal wildlife agencies in the Northern Rockies could no longer continue hiding the damage wolves were dealing wildlife populations, and to the ranching community.  It became extremely clear to the public, that to at least slow the destruction of wildlife resources, wolf management/control hunts were a must. However, once again, Molloy decided in favor of groups like Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club who filed a lawsuit to stop such a hunt.

This judge’s reasoning for not allowing the hunt to proceed pointed out that it would be wrong to allow Montana and Idaho, where USFWS approved wolf management plans were in place, to conduct wolf hunts – since Wyoming’s wolf management plan (earlier approved by USFWS) had been rejected by USFWS.  Many feel that it was pressure from Molloy that lead to the reversal of approval for that plan.  A few months after that Molloy decision, the federal court in Cheyenne, WY found that USFWS had been wrong to reject the plan, and that the plan met every requirement of the Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan.

The one positive thing that has resulted from Molloy’s decision to stop the hunts has been a number of wolf management bills and resolutions introduced back in Washington, D.C.  Those who see growing wolf numbers as a threat now know that national legislation needs to be enacted to stop the loss of wildlife and negative impact to state economies.  In Montana, state Senator Joe Balyeat has determined that wolves are now costing the “Treasure State” about $124-million in losses annually.  And to keep legislation to have the wolf removed from the Endangered Species list alive at the end of the past session, it was added as a rider to the budget Continuing Resolution  earlier this year.  And that has been met with fierce opposition from a couple of pro-wolf environmental organizations – the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the Center for Biological Diversity, who have filed a lawsuit to contest the right of Congress to add such legislation to a budget resolution.

If you were to guess that the case is being heard by Judge Donald Molloy, you would be 100-percent correct.  These groups have found themselves a wolf-friendly judge, and the U.S. District Court in Missoula, MT has become their court of choice – for good reason.

Last month, more than a dozen affected parties filed to be interveners in this case.  These included the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the National Rifle Association, Safari Club International, Big Game Forever, Montana Farm Bureau, Idaho Farm Bureau, as well as the State of Idaho.  Molloy denied these groups the opportunity, even though in prior lawsuits filed by the environmental groups to stop wolf management hunts, this very liberal judge allowed more than a dozen interveners to be involved.

Here is his reasoning:  “Permissive intervention is not appropriate either. The issue before the Court is narrow, and the Court set a shortened briefing schedule in order to promptly resolve the case. Federal Defendants adequately represent Safari Club and NRA’s interest. Adding parties complicates scheduling and increases the cost of litigation. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 (The rules governing procedure “should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”). Granting permissive intervention or status as amicus curiae will not further efficient resolution of the case.


Therefore, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that the motion to Intervene (dkt # 12) is



Dated this 1st day of June, 2011.”


In essence, what Judge Donald Molloy is saying here, is that he has already decided this case, even before the “Defendant”, in this case Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Department of the Interior, has even had the time to answer the claims in the lawsuit.  LOBO WATCH has heard from several very respected attorneys in regards to the denied right to intervene in this lawsuit, one of which remarked that this clearly shows Molloy’s bias stand on the wolf issue, and that he should recuse himself from this case.

Utahan and Harvard graduated attorney Ryan Benson, who serves as the National Director of Big Game Forever, says, “Denying the right of these parties to intervene sets a dangerous precedent. The law says that intervention is often granted as a matter of right and rules related to joining a lawsuit should be interpreted broadly in favor of these intervening parties.”

Benson adds, “No one knows how Judge Molloy will rule, but we do already know that Sportsmen and the states will not be represented in the action. Ignoring the rights of sportsmen and the states appears to be the order of the day in the courts when it comes to wolves. Once again it appears that form will be used to upstage substance when it comes to our legal and constitutional rights. The good news is that this situation is easily resolved by Congress. The Endangered Species Act is a statutory issue rather than a Constitutional issue. As a result, Congress holds the ultimate authority on the issue, not the courts. It is clear that without comprehensive Congressional action, we can expect many more years of delays, restrictions and technicalities not just in Idaho and Montana, but across the West and Midwest”

The longer that Judge Donald Molloy is allowed to be the only ruling voice on wolf issues in the Northern Rockies, the longer this travesty of courtroom ethics and protocol will continue.  The Northern Rockies Wolf Recovery Plan no longer has anything to do with restoring a wolf population, that goal was reached nearly ten years ago.  Today, it is all about money, power and ego.  Manipulating the control center is Judge Donald Molloy.

There is now more support than ever for Congressional amendment of the Endangered Species Act to remove the wolf from federal protection, and to return wolf management and control to each and every state.  Soon, many radical environmentalists will be pointing fingers at this judge, and what they’ll be saying probably can’t be shared in print. – Toby Bridges, LOBO WATCH

To read all of the comments from Ryan Benson, National Director of BIG GAME FOREVER, in regard to the manner in which that organization and others were denied the right to intervene in the most recent (and current) wolf legal case – go to

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