HELENA - The owners of a game farm will ask the Montana Supreme Court to
overturn a judge's order blocking their transfer of hundreds of elk to
the Crow Indian Reservation for release into the wild.
Stan Kaleczyc, attorney for Len and Pamela Wallace, said Tuesday the
same issues argued in District Court will be raised before the high
court, including claims that the state's opposition to the transfer
illegally imposes restrictions on a tribal government and interstate
Meanwhile, eight sportsmen groups have asked to get involved in the
case, saying they have a legitimate interest in protecting Montana's
wildlife and ensuring game farm laws are enforced.
"Sportsmen across Montana are deeply concerned that any release in the
wild of game-farm animals will compromise the genetic purity, the health
and integrity of our wild, free-ranging public wildlife," said Craig
Sharpe, executive director for the Montana Wildlife Federation.
The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks last week obtained a
permanent injunction prohibiting the Wallaces from allowing another 384
elk to be shipped to the tribe.
District Judge Dorothy McCarter of Helena said state law requires such
animals be kept only on a licensed game farm, and the reservation does
not meet that criteria.
The Wallaces sent 68 head from their Big Velvet Ranch at Darby to the
Crow Reservation before the state went to court two weeks ago. Those
animals were released to roam freely and state wildlife officials have
argued the Wallaces, as licensed game farm operators, have a legal
obligation to make sure their animals end up in a secure facility.
One of the fish and game agency's greatest fears is that some of the
Wallaces' elk have chronic wasting disease and will spread that to wild
The Wallaces contend they met all requirements for transferring their
elk and should be allowed to do so. They said the state veterinarian
believes the animals are an unlikely danger to wildlife and that the
state has no authority over what the sovereign Crow nation does with the
Kaleczyc said time is critical because many of the elk waiting to be
shipped to the tribe are within weeks of giving birth and too long a
delay will require the Wallaces to continue feeding animals for months
after the calves are born.
"Mr. Wallace is incurring ongoing daily expense in keeping those elk on
his property," he said. "We would like the case heard and a decision
from the Supreme Court as soon as possible."
In their request to have a say in the legal dispute, the sportsmen
groups said they represent people who benefit from the state's
obligation to manage and protect Montana's wildlife.
"They feel that the transfer and release of captive-bred elk from the
Wallace operation poses a potentially devastating risk to Montana's wild
elk," the groups said in their court document.
Those filing the request are the Montana and Wyoming wildlife
federations, Ravalli Fish and Game Association, Anaconda Sportsmen
Association, Skyline Sportsmen Association, Public Lands Access
Association, Anaconda Sportsmen's Club and Russell Country Sportsmen.