Farmers and ranchers are seeking to defend the Trump administration’s decision to take wolves off the endangered species list, distrusting the new White House to stand by the policy.
The American Farm Bureau, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and other farm groups are waiting for a ruling on whether they can intervene in three suits filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California.
The suits seek to restore federal protection for wolves in California and the western two-thirds of Washington and Oregon, as well as the Great Lakes region. Farm groups argue they have a big stake in the outcome and can’t rely on the Biden administration to protect their interests.
If the White House settles rather than fights, or loses and declines to appeal, farmers and ranchers will be hurt, according to the groups, calling themselves the Gray Wolf Agricultural Coalition.
“A change in presidential administration suggests that representation may not be adequate,” according to a brief submitted by the farm groups.
The three suits, filed by environmental groups, are on parallel tracks before Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland.
White already has granted intervenor status to the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International. Several other groups, calling themselves the Sportsmen Conservation Coalition, have also moved to intervene.
A hearing on motions to intervene is set for July 2. The American Sheep Industry Association, American Forest Resource Council and Public Lands Council joined the Farm Bureau and cattlemen’s association in the motion.
On his first day in office, President Biden ordered the Interior Department to reconsider a rule adopted in November that removed federal protection from wolves throughout the Lower 48.
“That review may alter the government’s position, and, at a minimum, makes clear the federal defendants cannot be relied upon to continue defending the delisting rule,” according to the farm groups.
The Biden administration has not announced any change in policy or asked the judge to delay proceedings while it reconsiders the rule.
Center for Biological Diversity attorney Collette Adkins said she wants the suits to move along to prevent states from authorizing wolf hunts. “We’re not inclined to stay the case while they (Biden administration) do their thinking,” she said.
Wolves already were delisted in Idaho and the eastern one-third of Washington and Oregon and were not affected by the November rule.
Environmental groups argue the Trump administration prematurely lifted federal protection for wolves elsewhere. Wolves have not recolonized their historic range, the suits claim.
The environmental groups say their members interact with wolves for recreational, spiritual, aesthetic and scientific benefits.
A Humane Society of the United States member in Minnesota declared in a court filing she has “formed relationships with individual wolves whose unique howls and behaviors she has come to know.”
Hunters and farmers also say they are personally affected by wolves and that they would rather have states and tribes manage the predators, rather than the Endangered Species Act.
A Wisconsin taxidermist declared he wanted to hunt wolves to maintain the deer population and “reduce conflicts between humans and wolves.”
A Minnesota rancher declared he lost 26 calves to wolves one year. “Waking up in the morning, I often wonder how many cattle are dead or missing to gray wolf depredation. It has been a nightmare.”
The lead plaintiffs in the three lawsuits are Defenders of Wildlife, WildEarth Guardians and the Natural Resources Defense Council.