Scientists are claiming that the public trust doctrine is helpful in maintaining “certain natural resources, including wildlife… who have no owners and therefore belong to all citizens.” (In the article, the writer even namedrops Geer v. Connecticut case to backup the point). Although this may not be news to us, the article above discusses an interesting story dealing with the public trust doctrine: a situation where a few states are being bad trustees to the point that the federal government may need to step in. Again.
The gray wolf, once an endangered species that lives in states such as Idaho and Montana, lost its federal protection this past Spring under a Congressional legislative rider. The FWS had attempted to delist the wolf 3 times unsuccessfully before this legislative rider delisted the wolf. Therefore, the federal government was no longer the trustee of the wolf, leaving the state to become the trustee of this species for the people.
The problem is that these few western states really loathe this gray wolf. State politicians are openly hostile toward the species. Hunters, ranchers, and farmers are eager to hunt the gray wolf, which is now overpopulated.
In fact, these states were unhappy that the federal government listed the wolf in the first place, detesting any involvement. The article points out that the state can usually act as a good trustee for its people, but in this case, the state has no desire to prevent the wolf from “lethal management.”
I actually lived out west for a few years and was able to hear a few ranchers rant about the wolves, so I understand that much of the state feels that the wolves’ overpopulation is now a threat to livestock and other associated things.
However, I echo the concern of the article: if this “lethal management” is allowed, what’s to stop the wolves from becoming endangered again? The federal government may have to intervene again in a few years if the state can’t be a good trustee. It should be interesting to see how this story plays out, since the debate is fairly heated.