Groups to appeal wolf ruling to 9th Circuit
Michael Garrity of Alliance for the Wild Rockies said the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals challenge probably won't happen in time to block this fall's scheduled wolf hunting seasons in Montana and Idaho.
But he added that federal District Judge Donald Molloy's ruling - released late Wednesday - appeared to give plenty of reasons for its own overturning.
"What Judge Molloy said was he was following 9th Circuit precedent," Garrity said on Thursday. "The 9th Circuit can overturn its own precedent."
Although Molloy ruled that Congress did not violate the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers doctrine when it delisted wolves and blocked further lawsuits, he called the move "a disrespect for the fundamental idea of the rule of law."
Alliance for the Wild Rockies was partnered with WildEarth Guardians, Friends of the Clearwater and other organizations in suing Interior Secretary Ken Salazar over the species' delisting. The coalition won its case before Molloy in August 2010, when the Missoula judge ruled that a 2009 decision turning wolf management over to state control in Montana and Idaho - but not in Wyoming - violated the Endangered Species Act.
In April, Montana Sen. Jon Tester and Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson amended a federal budget bill to reinstate that 2009 delisting decision, adding the move "shall not be subject to judicial review." The three environmental groups, along with the Center for Biological Diversity, banded together to overturn the congressional rider.
Molloy said the rider didn't appear to amend the Endangered Species Act, which is usually the requirement for Congress to interrupt an ongoing lawsuit. But other courts have held that using the words "not be subject to judicial review" was enough to make the move legal, although Molloy referred to the phrase as "legislative prestidigitation" and "magic words."
Gray wolves were placed on the federal endangered species list in 1972. After some wild wolves migrated south from Canada in the late 1980s, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service successfully transplanted more wolves in and around Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and '95.
State biologists now estimate there are more than 550 Rocky Mountain gray wolves in Montana, between 700 and 1,000 in Idaho and 350 in Wyoming. Another few dozen are scattered in Washington, Oregon and Utah.
Montana and Idaho both have public wolf hunts scheduled for this fall, and Wyoming officials just reached a tentative agreement with the Interior Department for its own wolf-hunting and predator control program.