In 2015, WildEarth Guardians, Alliance for the Rockies, and Friends of the Wild Swan—represented by attorney Matt Bishop at the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC)—entered into a settlement agreement with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MTFWP) to ensure that appropriate protection measures would be implemented to avoid the incidental killing of Canada lynx in the state.
Notably, the settlement agreement provided that snares should not be permitted in two designated lynx recovery zones, areas that represent a significant chunk of western and southwestern Montana, including areas outside of Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park.
In August 2021, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission—clearly ignoring the terms of the settlement—issued new regulations for the killing of wolves that not only expanded trapping in the state but, for the first time, allowed for the use of snares to kill wolves throughout the state.
In late September 2021, our attorney from WELC sent a letter to the state of Montana informing it that its new regulations on wolf snaring were in defiance of this lynx legal settlement. We also threatened to renew litigation if changes were not made immediately. In response, in late October, the Montana Fish and Commission was forced to update its wolf regulations and not allow wolf snaring on public lands in two large regions of Montana where wolves reside, generally the expansive public lands south and west of Glacier National Park and north of Yellowstone National Park (see map below). This late re-convening of the Commission and issuance of the new rule came about as a direct result of our 2015 settlement and our threats to sue the state of Montana for its clear breach of settlement terms.
As a result of our 2015 settlement, and tenacity in ensuring its terms were continued to be followed by the state, Guardians and our allies were able to secure a huge, impactful win for wolves on the ground in Montana right now. Distribution maps indicate that many of the wolves in Montana live in the “designated lynx recovery zone” areas.
As snaring is one of the easiest (and cruelest) ways for hunters to kill wolves, the late regulatory change—a month in advance of trapping season—will, undoubtedly, save the lives of hundreds of wolves this year. While we continue to fight on multiple fronts to relist wolves in the Northern Rockies, thanks to the creative strategic decisions made by WELC, in partnership with Guardians, Alliance for the Rockies, and Friends of the Wild Swan, we are able to have some on-the-ground impact for wolves this year.
This is just another example of how we are leaving no stone unturned to save the gray wolf. And we can’t do this work without you. We’re extremely grateful that over 8,700 Guardians members and supporters spoke up this summer when the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission was accepting public comments. You and your fellow Guardians have also given generously to our Wolf Defense Fund, providing us with the critical resources needed to wage this battle for wolves in the courts, in Washington, D.C., and at the state level across the West. Together, we will save wolves.