In a victory for the gray wolves of the northern Rockies, a federal judge today granted conservationists’ request to stop the slaughter of wolves and reinstate federal Endangered Species Act protections. The ruling prevents wolf hunting from going forward in Montana and Idaho. The court ruled the federal government illegally subdivided the northern Rockies wolf population, eliminating federal protections for the vast majority of the region’s wolves even while acknowledging that they remain endangered by Wyoming law.
“Wolves are once again protected in the northern Rockies. This is great news for the wolves. Montana and Idaho had plans to allow hunts this fall, hundreds of wolves were scheduled to be killed and now those plans are halted,” said Earthjustice attorney Doug Honnold.
Today’s ruling comes in response to a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of 13 conservation groups. The groups argued that the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by removing wolves in Idaho and Montana from the list of threatened and endangered species. As a result of today’s ruling, federal protections have been restored. Wolves throughout the rest of the lower-48 United States remain on the list.
The conservation groups also argued that the government’s determination that 300 wolves constitute a recovered wolf population in the northern Rockies ignored current science. Independent scientists have concluded that 2,000 to 5,000 wolves are necessary to secure the health of the species in the region. With continued recovery efforts, legitimate wolf recovery in the northern Rockies is readily attainable. However, wolf hunts and aggressive wolf killing by state and federal agencies jeopardize this result.
Both Idaho and Montana held wolf hunts in 2009. Hunters in those states killed 260 wolves.
Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of 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 Project, Western Watersheds Project, Wildlands Network, and Hells Canyon Preservation Council.