The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Wyoming's lawsuit to compel federal approval of its wolf plan was without merit.
In 2003, Wyoming sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an effort to force the government to approve Wyoming's wolf management plan. Wyoming's plan calls for killing most wolves in the state if, as expected, the federal government lifts Endangere Species Act protections. U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson ruled that Wyoming's lawsuit was an illegal attempt to short-circuit the Endangered Species Act. Because Wyoming had failed to follow the law's petition process, which ensures that federal protections for recovering species are not withdrawn prematurely, Judge Johnson wrote that "[t]he Court is at a loss to explain the actions of the State of Wyoming." Today, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed Judge Johnson's "thorough" opinion.
"This ruling confirms that Wyoming has been wasting time and energy on a frivolous lawsuit," said Abigail Dillen, an Earthjustice attorney who represented the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council in the litigation. "If Wyoming is serious about delisting, it should make a plan to protect wolves in Wyoming instead of fighting for the right to exterminate them."
Currently gray wolves in Wyoming are protected by the Endangered Species Act. The Fish and Wildlife Service is considering whether to "delist" wolves in the Northern Rockies and turn management over to the states, but before that can happen, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming must develop management plans that are sure to maintain a viable wolf population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected Wyoming's plan because it proposes to manage wolves as "predators" throughout the vast majority of their range outside the National Parks. Under this plan, anyone could shoot, trap, bait, or otherwise kill a wolf as soon as it leaves Yellowstone National Park.
"Wyoming wants to throw away a huge investment in wolf recovery and bring back the bad old days of poisoning, trapping and shooting wolves on site, " said Steve Thomas of the Wyoming Sierra Club's Sheridan office. "That's no way to ensure a healthy wolf population."