Earthjustice files wolf case for enviros
by Earthjustice press release
June 2, 2009
Conservation groups today filed their challenge to the removal of Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Idaho and Montana. The case was filed in federal district court in Montana.
On April 2, 2009, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped the wolves from the Endangered Species list, finalizing an effort launched by the Bush administration to deprive the wolves of legal and habitat protections, thus allowing state management and hunting. The challenged delisting decision is the second time in a year the federal government has removed federal protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. Conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, successfully sued to get the protections reinstated in July 2008.
Delisting wolves means they will be subject to state-sponsored wolf "control" efforts and hunting unless stopped by legal action. Idaho and Montana plan to allow hundreds of wolves to be shot.
The decision to lift wolf protections comes as Yellowstone National Park wolves declined by 27 percent in the last year -- one of the largest declines reported since wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995. The northern Rockies wolf population also has not achieved a level of connectivity between the greater Yellowstone, central Idaho, and northwest Montana areas that is essential to wolves' long-term survival. In delisting wolves, the Fish and Wildlife Service authorized Idaho and Montana to reduce their wolf populations from a current population of roughly 1,500 wolves to only 200-300 wolves in the two states.
Wolves will remain under federal control in Wyoming because a federal court previously ruled that Wyoming's hostile wolf management scheme leaves wolves in "serious jeopardy." The Fish and Wildlife Service in the recent past held that a state-by-state approach to delisting wolves was not permitted under the Endangered Species Act, including in its earlier decision to not delist wolves without Wyoming's inclusion. In the challenged delisting decision, the federal government flip flopped from its earlier position.
In addition to Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have refused to make enforceable commitments to maintain viable wolf populations within their borders. On the very day the first wolf delisting took effect in March, 2008, Idaho Governor Butch Otter signed a law allowing Idaho citizens to kill wolves without a permit whenever wolves are annoying, disturbing, or "worrying" livestock or domestic animals. The Idaho Fish and Game Commission established rules that would have allowed 428 wolves to be killed in 2008 alone had the court not returned wolves to the endangered species list. Montana also authorized a fall wolf hunt.
Earthjustice represents Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Project, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.
For more information on this lawsuit, click on the document below.