A Livingston judge has temporarily re-opened two regions north of Yellowstone Park to wolf hunting.
Four organizations and one rancher sued the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Commission on Wednesday over its Dec. 10 decision to close wolf hunting and trapping in two small hunting districts north of Yellowstone Park.
In response, Park County District Judge William Nels Swandal issued an injunction, overruling the FWP Commission’s decision.
The complaint, filed by attorney Cory Swanson, argues the commission didn’t give the public advance notice of the possibility of a decision nor did it provide the chance to comment on the decision — violations of the Montana Constitution and the Montana Administrative Procedure Act.
The five-member commission was scheduled to receive an informational update on the wolf harvest on Dec. 10, but following a series of incidents where eight radio-collared wolves were killed outside the park, commission chairman Bob Ream moved to modify the hunting in those two areas.
Commissioner Ron Moody told the Chronicle Wednesday that the meeting had been scheduled mainly to deal with real estate issues.
“When it came up, I asked, ‘Does this violate the open meeting law?’” Moody said.
In May, when the commissioners considered changes to the wolf hunt — including extending the season, eliminating district quotas and the addition of trapping — they assured environmental groups that the commission would monitor the wolf harvest and make adjustments as necessary.
“We were trying to take every precaution with the inauguration of a new cultural practice,” Moody said. “We were trying to ensure we don’t get too far off the rails, so we put these checks in place.”
Even so, groups such as the Greater Yellowstone Coalition requested the establishment of a no-trapping buffer area around Yellowstone Park. GYC Wyoming wildlife advocate Chris Colligan had said he worried that the elimination of up to 60 percent of wolves would decimate the Yellowstone packs.
Kerry White, spokesman for Citizens for Balanced Use, said his organization joined the lawsuit because of the alleged overstep on the part of the commission, not the elimination of hunting opportunities.
Wolf hunting continues in the rest of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
“The wolf issue is the wolf issue – we just want to bring accountability to government,” White said. “If you’re going to make a decision, you have to follow procedures.”
White said CBU — along with Big Game Forever, LLC, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, Montana Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and rancher Alan Redfield — had been getting calls from people questioning the decision.
Both Redfield and White are newly elected legislators.
Attorneys Cory Swanson and Jim Brown researched the law and last week concluded that a violation might have occurred, so they crafted the complaint, White said.
White said they filed in Park County because the closed districts lie in the south of the county.
A hearing should be scheduled within the next 30 days, White said.