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Minnesota Court of Appeals Denies Challenge to Wolf Hunting and Trapping

MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Court of Appeals today denied a challenge, brought by two conservation groups, to hunting and trapping of wolves in the state. The lawsuit argued that the Department of Natural Resources failed to provide sufficient opportunity for public comment before allowing killing of wolves, which is opposed by a broad swath of the public; but the court decision held that the conservation groups lacked “standing” to sue because they could not demonstrate that the state agency’s actions had caused injury to their interests. The court concluded that the harm to wolves was caused instead by the legislature’s decision to authorize wolf hunting.

“The hunting and trapping of wolves is highly controversial and opposed by many people as cruel and unnecessary. We’d hoped that the court would require the state agency to follow the law and give the public a real voice in how our state’s wildlife is managed,” said Collette Adkins Giese, a Minneapolis-based attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity who represented the groups. “We’re so disappointed by today’s decision. It allows the Department of Natural Resources to continue to ignore the pleas of thousands of citizens who fiercely oppose wolf hunting and trapping.”

Minnesota’s 2001 wolf-management plan provided that wolves would not be hunted or trapped for five years after removal of their Endangered Species Act protection. But the state legislature eliminated those safeguards by passing a 2011 budget bill that included a rider authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to open wolf hunting if the agency first provided an opportunity for public comment. In January 2012 the wolves’ federal protection was stripped away; but instead of opening a formal comment period, the department offered only an online survey. (Nearly 80 percent of respondents opposed the wolf hunt: Of 7,351 responses, only 1,542 people supported a wolf season.)

“It is hard to put into words our disappointment and sense of injustice,” said Maureen Hackett, president of Howling for Wolves. “The public has a legitimate concern in the care and management of the Minnesota wolf and all our natural resources. Although today’s decision is a setback, we will continue our fight to protect Minnesota’s wolves.” 

Hunters and trappers killed more than 400 wolves during Minnesota’s first-ever wolf hunting and trapping seasons. State agents and private landowners killed hundreds more to protect livestock. Hunting and trapping may actually increase conflicts between wolves and livestock by disrupting pack dynamics and creating more lone wolves that are more likely to target livestock out of desperation.

The conservation groups are considering their next steps, which may include an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

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