Wolves win! (At least for now)

This case, like a cloud larger than a man’s hand, will hang over the northwest states of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming until there has been a final determination of the complex issues presented.

Thus begins Federal District Judge Donald Molloy’s much anticipated ruling, issued just this evening, on the Bush Administration’s decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from the Northern Rocky Mountain population of gray wolves.  In a near-complete victory for NRDC and our allies, Judge Malloy granted a preliminary injunction restoring Endangered Species Act protections to the wolves.

Here’s the key passage:

Plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the majority of the claims relied upon in their request for a preliminary injunction. In particular, (1) the Fish & Wildlife Service acted arbitrarily in delisting the wolf despite a lack of evidence of genetic exchange between subpopulations; and (2) it acted arbitrarily and capriciously when it approved Wyoming’s 2007 plan despite the State’s failure to commit to managing for 15 breeding pairs and the plan’s malleable trophy game area.

There’s much work still to be done to secure this victory and see the case to its final conclusion, but for now, at least, the wolves are much safer than they were just this morning.  Huge kudos goes to NRDC’s wolf team, including Louisa Willcox and Sylvia Fallon and to the lawyers in Earthjustice’s Bozeman Montana office and, especially, Doug Honnold, all of whom worked tirelessly to secure the recovery of these magnificent creatures in one of America’s best-known and best-loved places.

UPDATE: A copy of Judge Molloy's Order is available here; a copy of NRDC's statement on the decision can be found here.