The federal Endangered Species Act can provide vast and expensive protections for listed animals.

For example, you can get in trouble by building on your own land if such a species calls it home. You can’t mess with whatever they might eat. You can’t even interact with them, mostly. Likely you cannot even change the trees or plants on such a range.

The California version of the federal law isn’t much different, but it now is being challenged in court over bureaucrats’ decision to launch all their protections on behalf of a single gray wolf, which lives in neighboring Oregon.

The CESA designated the gray wolf as endangered last year, but the California Cattlemen’s Association and the California Farm Bureau, pointing out that the rules forbid them from even “chasing [a] wolf to the border of his or her property,” sued the California Fish and Game Commission, the Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Protection Information Center, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and Cascadia Wildlands.

Damien Schiff, senior attorney for Pacific Legal Foundation, which is representing the landowners, explained the opening brief was filed in the case and a hearing is scheduled in a few months.

“We make three basic arguments,” he explained.

“First, the listing violates the Act’s limitation to native flora and fauna, because it is based on the wanderings of OR-7, a wolf born in Oregon but derived from a population of Canadian wolves transported to Idaho in the 1990s by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This population is part of the Northwestern or timber wolf subspecies of gray wolf, a type of wolf much larger and more voracious than the subspecies of wolf that may have been present in California prior to the wolf’s extirpation from the Golden State in the 1920s.”

Further, Schiff said: “Second, the listing is illegal because it is based on a truncated analysis of the wolf’s condition in California only. The California Fish & Game Commission takes the position that it can only review the California portion of a population’s range, when determining whether to list it. But the statute has no such limitation; it simply directs the commission to determine whether a population is in danger of extinction ‘throughout all, or a significant portion, of its range.’ As for the gray wolf, it is undisputed that the species as a whole is doing quite well; all the more reason why the commission’s narrow focus on California is problematic.”

Finally, the lawyer noted that the single wolf only intermittently has been in the state, having settled in Oregon.

“We argue that such a passing presence, not even an established breeding population, is insufficient for the commission to determine that the wolf has established an active range within the state. Even the Department of Fish & Wildlife agreed, and on that basis urged the commission not to list the wolf, a recommendation that the commission ill-advisedly rejected.”

The listing threatens “the livelihoods and safety of California’s ranching families,” the complaint explains. It “consumes livestock and family pets” and is “found throughout North American and Eurasia.”

The specific wolf for which protections were adopted statewide, known as OR-7,  crossed the border into California from Oregon, into which wolves originally introduced in Idaho expanded.

“Because the commission failed to analyze the status of the gray wolf throughout all of its natural range, the commission failed to proceed in the manner required by law, thereby prejudicially abusing its discretion,” the complaint states. “For the same reason, the commission’s decision is arbitrary and capricious, because the agency failed to consider a relevant factor – namely, the wolf’s status through its natural range.

Finally, the move was based on only the ” intermittent presence of a single wolf” as well as “speculation” about others.

“Without a resident breeding population, the wolf is functionally absent from the state,” the complaint states.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.