We have the wolf by the ears, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.
-- Thomas Jefferson
In addition to being an inventor, philosopher, author of the Declaration of Independence, and President of the United States (as well as, let's be honest, a salacious slave-owner), it turns out that Thomas Jefferson was rather prescient when it came to environmental litigation.
The words that Jefferson wrote two hundred years ago neatly summarize a lawsuit challenging the removal of the Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list currently pending before District Court Judge Donald Molloy of the District of Montana.
In the lawsuit, several environmental groups protest the US Fish and
Wildlife Service's decision to classify the Rocky Mountain gray wolf as
a "distinct population segment" and delist it from the endangered
Giving the proceedings an added sense of urgency is Idaho's plan to allow hunters to kill up to 220 wolves, beginning today.
had hoped that Judge Molloy would issue an injunction stopping the hunt
after a hearing yesterday morning, but Molloy said that he wanted to
review documents before making his decision on the injunction.
previously put a halt to a planned hunt several weeks before it was
scheduled to begin. This time around, however, Idaho fish and game
officials only announced the plan a short time before the hunt was to
begin. Doug Honnold, the lead attorney for the environmental groups told the New York Times that the timing of the announcement "squeezed the judge and the judicial review process."
as Jefferson wrote, Judge Molloy now has to contend with a problematic
wolf in his grasp, with both sides clamoring for both Justice and
self-preservation. For environmentalists, the self-preseravation issue
is obvious: With the wolf delisted, and a hunt scheduled to begin,
environmentalists fear that the recovery of the wolf population -
currently estimated to be around 850 animals in Idaho - could be
irreparably damaged by the ensuing hunt.
For ranchers, their
self-preservation hinges on keeping wolves away from their livestock.
Environmentalists counter that killing wolves who have attacked
livestock is already legal, however.
On the other side of the scale is Justice, but what exactly that means at this point only Judge Molloy can decide.
In closing, here's another apt presidential quote, this one from Abraham Lincoln:
shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep
thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for
the same act as the destroyer of liberty.