Three environmental groups filed a notice of appeal [text, PDF] Monday signaling their collective intention to challenge a lower court ruling [JURIST report] upholding Congressional action removing federal protections for gray wolves in Montana and Idaho. The Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR), Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians [advocacy websites] are seeking to reverse the judgment handed down by Judge Donald Molloy of the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website], who last week ruled [order, PDF] that Congress did not violate the Constitution when it effectively overturned his previous ruling striking down a 2009 delisting rule issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service [official website]. The rule removed [federal registrar notice, PDF] the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf [Yellowstone Insider backgrounder] from Endangered Species Act (ESA) [materials] protection list in all areas outside of Wyoming. AWR Executive Director Michael Garritiy said that Congress acted unlawfully [AWR press release]:
While Congress absolutely has the right to make and amend laws, the wolf delisting rider (Section 1713 of the budget law, PL 112-10) does not amend the Endangered Species Actit circumvents the judicial process by ordering the reinstatement of the 2009 rule that delisted wolves. Moreover, by exempting it from judicial review it basically nullifies the Constitutional checks and balances between Congress and the Judicial Branch of government.Garrity pledged to pursue the matter to the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
The wolves were removed from the shelter of the ESA after a controversial Interior Department memo was published that several animals should be taken off the list despite their numbers not being at a sustainable level. The delisting order leaves the wolves under the purview of the Montana and Idaho state governments. Montana began selling wolf hunting licenses [state hunting regulations, PDF] on the same day as Molloy's ruling. There is no limit on the number of licenses sold, but the hunting season will be closed in hunting districts around the state as regional quotas are reached. Montana hunters will be able to shoot as many as 220 gray wolves in Montana in a hunt scheduled to begin in early September, first with an archery season and then later with a rifle season. The state expects that the hunt will reduce the predator's Montana population by about 25 percent to a minimum 425 wolves. Environmentalists say they believe the population will be reduced further than that.