Monks in Bozeman, and Environmentalists in Court

A delegation of Mongolian Buddhist monks arrived in Bozeman last week, and will be in town until the 20th as part of the Tributary Fund’s work on encouraging environmental leadership within religious communities. I will be talking with the monks in a small group session about the potential for monasteries to participate in environmental monitoring (including monitoring of wolverines, pikas, and other climate sensitive wildlife), and on the 17th TTF will host a public discussion at the Bozeman library to talk about citizen science in a broader sense. I hope that we will have a chance to talk with more specificity about wolverine citizen science and about the differences between citizen science in the US and citizen science in Mongolia. Please join us if you are in town; the library discussion session is a brown bag lunch, and runs from 11:45 to 1:00. As a bonus, my friend and colleague Marissa Smith, environmental anthropologist extraordinaire, who has accompanied me (with great patience and endurance) on several Mongolian wolverine expeditions, will also be there to contribute to the discussion.

In other news, environmental advocacy groups have apparently launched another lawsuit against the state of Montana, as part of an on-going attempt to shut down the trapping season. I’ve already written extensively about this issue, and I have several draft posts about the broader issue of the strategies that the environmental advocacy community  employs around endangered species protection, but they are not ready for posting. Instead, I defer to friend and colleague Arthur Middleton, who explores this issue in a recent column about wolf conservation in the Wall Street Journal (you can get free access by searching for the title of the piece and clicking on the search result). Wolves and wolverines are different creatures with different sets of biological and social challenges, and we are very fortunate that wolverines create none of the problems for people that wolves and bears do. But the point about the destructiveness of endless litigation remains the same.

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3 thoughts on “Monks in Bozeman, and Environmentalists in Court

  1. Conservation groups are forced to sue to uphold the law. USFWS will hardly ever list a species on it’s own free accord. They have to be sued. It’s sad, but that’s the way it is. Conservation groups are the only ones who are willing to stand up and uphold the laws and protect our remaining wild creatures and places, more than any government agency or researcher, certainly more than Mr. Middleton. In the column, he fails to point out that if it weren’t for these “litigious” environmental groups, wolves would never have reintroduced in the first place. I’m sure Mr. Middleton does not care that my home state of Wyoming is now in the process of driving our wolf population down to the bare minimum and that wolves in over 80% of my state can be shot on sight, at any time, by anybody, and by any means, essentially prohibiting a wolf presence in 80% of Wyoming. I thank god that the Northern Rockies conservation groups are diligently working on a case to get wolves in Wyoming back back under the protection of the ESA, until Wyoming can develop a management plan where wolves are not treated as vermin in over 80% of our state. In the case of wolverines, they are suing to uphold the law, so that wolverines do not have to linger on the candidate list until it is too late. In summary, I wish USFWS was a competent enough agency to list endangered and threatened species without being sued. Unfortunately, that is just not the case. Since USFWS sure isn’t looking out for our wildlife, I’m eternally grateful that Defenders, Western Watersheds, GYC, BCA, CBD, and the good lawyers at Earthjustice are willing to pick up the slack.

    Sam Parks
    Laramie, Wyoming

    • Thanks for the thoughts. I leave Arthur Middleton to speak for himself – wolves and wolverines are different species and this blog is absolutely not a space where the wolf issue is meant to be debated. There are plenty of other places to do that. My point is not about wolves, but about the counterproductive nature of litigation in endangered species cases. I’ll post more on this later, but I want to point out here that the current round of lawsuits over wolverines are not about putting the animal on the list; they’re about halting Montana’s trapping season. The wolverine status decision was already slated for sometime in 2013.

      • There are two wolverine lawsuits going on. The one you refer to in this post has been filed in Montana state court and it’s goal is to end wolverine trapping in the state. The other (far more important) lawsuit is in federal court. USFWS asked that the federal lawsuit be dismissed. Judge Christensen refused to dismiss the lawsuit and in effect ordered a listing decision by mid January 2013 (by declaring that the lawsuit would be considered moot if they made a decision by then). A listing decision was already expected sometime in 2013. However, USFWS almost never lives up to their self-imposed deadlines, another reason that environmentalists are forced to sue, in this case and many others.

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