For Immediate Release, August 11, 2011
Appeal Challenges Congressional Rider That Stripped Wolves of Protection
Groups Call for Expedited Hearing to Halt Wolf Slaughter in the Rockies This Fall
MISSOULA, Mont.— The Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project and Cascadia Wildlands filed an appeal today in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the constitutionality of a congressional budget rider that stripped Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, including Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, and northern Utah.
“Wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains should be managed by science, not political meddling by Congress,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center. “This appeal is aimed at restoring needed protections for wolves in these states. Although numbers have risen, the job of wolf recovery is far from complete.”
Last week, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy reluctantly upheld the constitutionality of the rider based on existing case law, but he made clear his disapproval of the rider, stating: “If I were not constrained by what I believe is binding precedent from the Ninth Circuit, and on-point precedent from other circuits, I would hold Section 1713 is unconstitutional because it violates the Separation of Powers doctrine . . . ,” further describing the rider as “a tearing away, an undermining, and a disrespect for the fundamental idea of the rule of law.” Today’s action seeks a reversal of the precedent binding Judge Molloy.
“The wolf rider is a clear example of overreaching by Congress that resulted in the wrongful removal of protections for wolves,” said Josh Laughlin, campaign director with Cascadia Wildlands in Eugene, Ore. “The rider is not only a disaster for wolves but for any endangered species that a politician doesn’t like. Congress has set a terrible precedent that we hope to overturn.”
The rider, approved in April, marked the first time that Congress, rather than scientists, took a plant or animal off the endangered species list. In his ruling last week, Molloy expressed his distaste for Congress’s overreaching, explaining that the Endangered Species Act “protects imperiled species, without regard to the popularity of the animal or plant. It does not just protect species when politically convenient. . . . [The rider] sacrifices the spirit of the ESA to appease a vocal political faction, but the wisdom of that choice is not now before this Court.”
“Wolves continue to be threatened by human intolerance and persecution—the very factors that resulted in their extinction across most of the United States,” said Jon Marvel, executive director of Western Watersheds Project. “Until there is more tolerance for wolves, they will continue to need protection.”
With protections lifted, the state of Idaho has authorized a hunting and trapping season with no limit on how many wolves can be killed and has only committed to maintain 150 wolves out of an estimated population of at least 1,000. Montana has set a hunting quota of 220 wolves, with a goal of reducing the population from an estimated 566 wolves to 425 wolves — a 25 percent decline. In Oregon, where the wolf population includes at most 25 wolves, state wildlife officials killed two wolves earlier this year. The state of Washington’s wolf recovery has been stymied over the past few years due to chronic poaching, and the population is currently at approximately 30 animals. Separately, a group known as “Sportsmen against Wolves” has vocally called for poisoning wolves.