The Fate of Northern Rockies Wolves Argued in Federal Court

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Outside the federal courthouse two days ago in Missoula marched a few dozen anti-wolf protesters with various posters: 

“Got Wolves?  Shoot Them!”

“Wolves are the West’s Gulf spill disaster”

“Save an Elk Herd.  Kill a Wolf!”

“Come On!  Let Us Kill The Wolves.”

Unfortunately, my favorite sign from last summer’s hearing – “Nuke The Canadian Wolves” – didn’t make an appearance, which was a bit of a bummer.

Inside the courthouse, the fate of the Northern Rockies wolf population was argued before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy by multiple capable lawyers representing various entities (i.e., the federal government, the state governments of Idaho and Montana, and different environmental NGOs).

NRDC, one of the plaintiffs, is represented by Earthjustice, and Doug Honnold argued (quite brilliantly, as usual) on our behalf.

Judge Molloy asked thoughtful, pointed questions to the attorneys arguing before him.  The hearing was civil, fair, and direct. 

Many of the judge’s questions probed a key issue in the case: was it legal for the government to remove Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming?

Stated another way, can the government use political boundaries to divide a single biological population?

In our view, the plain language of the Endangered Species Act clearly prohibits such political tinkering, and how Judge Molloy rules on the issue will have large policy implications for other imperiled species going forward.

Ultimately, in this case, we want to see Endangered Species Act protections returned to the wolves in Idaho and Montana, the recovery plan for the Northern Rockies wolf population reopened, and a new, scientifically credible recovery plan created for the future.

With the briefs filed and oral arguments presented, the real waiting game now begins.

If you want a viable, healthy Northern Rockies wolf population over the long term, cross your fingers.

And your toes.

About the Authors

Matt Skoglund

Director, Northern Rockies office

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