The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] rejected [opinion text, PDF] a law suit on Wednesday brought by conservation groups trying to preserve federal endangered species protections for wolves. The groups were trying to preserve the protected status of the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf following an amendment to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [materials] which removed the wolf from the list. The plaintiffs claimed that the amendment was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers doctrine. This ruling gives approval to wolf hunts currently underway in Idaho and Montana [materials]. Following the ruling, wolf expert Michael Robinson from the Center for Biological Diversity [official website] condemned the ruling [press release]:
Congress set a terrible precedent by passing this backdoor rider that took away protection from wolves. Scientists, not politicians, need to decide which species need protection. That’s the law. And that’s what makes sense if we’re going to save animals and plants from extinction. We will continue to fight the good fight on behalf of wolves across the country. These incredible animals deserve a shot at recovery beyond just the few pockets where they eke out a living today.Jay Tutchton, a lawyer for one of the conservation groups involved in the lawsuit, WildEarth Guardians [advocacy website], indicated that the plaintiffs may still chose to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, though they are more likely to campaign to Congress to get the wolves re-listed.
Three environmental groups filed an emergency motion [JURIST report] with the Ninth Circuit court in August requesting that the court halt the wolf hunt. However, the US Fish and Wildlife Services [official website] gave control of the wolf population only to state governments in Montana and Idaho, restricting the wolves in Wyoming under Federal guidelines. Days earlier, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website] ruled [order, PDF] that Congress' removal of the gray wolf from the ESA, not through amending it but through attaching a "wolf rider" to an appropriations bill, was legal [JURIST report]. In August 2010, Judge Malloy ruled that it was improper to remove restrictions in one jurisdiction and not another, and put the wolves back on the ESA entirely. In response, the "wolf rider" was attached to the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriation Act of 2011 [materials] bill by Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson [official website] and Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester [official website], opening the door to these hunts. Controversy began over the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf in 2009 when Fish and Wildlife Services removed [federal registrar notice, PDF] them from 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.