Government allows historic wolf hunt

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Norway’s Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen found a way to circumvent a controversial court order that halted a state-approved winter wolf hunt last week. Helgesen announced Friday that he thus was authorizing new licenses for hunters to shoot 16 wolves within a zone set up for their protection plus another 26 outside the zone.

Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s government minister in charge of environmental issues, is back in the middle of the country’s ongoing battles over wolves. PHOTO: Klima- og Miljødepartementet

The Oslo City Court (Oslo Tingrett), acting on a complaint from environmental organization WWF, issued an injunction November 21 that stopped an earlier-authorized and also controversial hunt for 12 wolves in Østfold, Oslo, Akershus and Hedmark. It was already underway and five wolves had been shot. WWF demanded an immediate halt of the hunt for the remaining seven wolves and the court granted it, saying it wanted the wolf hunt stopped while it examined how the state has handled its wildlife management responsibilites for wolves.

The court also determined that the state had made some legal and processing errors in granting the hunt that were tied to how the wolf population, which is under protection, can survive.

It was a major victory for WWF and a defeat for farmers and their lobbyists, who want as few wolves in Norway as legally possible. Ann Merete Furuberg, leader of one of the farmers’ major lobbying and trade associations, was furious while Ole André Myhrvold of the farmer-friendly Center Party accused WWF of launching “a legal battle in court against the Parliament.” A majority in Parliament had forced Helgesen and the rest of the conservative minority government coalition to relaunch a hunt that he’d suspended last winter.

Ingrid Lomelde of WWF claimed the organization had no choice but to file a lawsuit in order to ensure sustainable wolf management. WWF looked forward “to the case proceeding and for the court to evaluate whether Norwegian wolf management violates Norwegian law (regarding the preservation order) and international obligations,” Lomelde told news bureau NTB last week.

Helgesen said the government had decided not to appeal the injunction halting the wolf hunt and instead had issued a new measure to hunt up to 12 outside the wolf zones in Hedmark, Oslo, Akershus and Østfold. “We also corrected the deficiencies the court had pointed out,” Helgesen said.

He also authorized hunts within the wolf zone in Hedmark. Up to 16 wolves in the Osdals- and Julussa packs can be shot. “We have evaluated the terms for their survival and believe this is defensible,” Helgesen said. That hunt can start January 1.

It all means that a total of 42 wolves now risk being shot in the largest hunt ever authorized in Norway, and WWF and other environmental organizations are upset again. “Shooting three-fourths of Norway’s wolf population is no way to manage a threatened species,” stated Silje Ask Lundberg, leader of Naturvernforbundet, Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth. “If we’re to have a viable wolf population, we can’t shoot as many as 42 wolves.” WWF called the new wolf hunt “absurd,” (external link) and said it would sit down with its lawyers to assess the government decision and how to proceed.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund