LIVINGSTON, Mont. (July 18, 2008) – A federal judge in the U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana issued a preliminary injunction today reinstating Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies. Conservation groups had sued the government, arguing that delisting the wolves was premature and that allowing the indiscriminate killing of wolves risked putting wolves back on the brink of extinction.
The following is a statement by Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC):
“The federal court just offered a badly needed lifeline to wolves in the Northern Rockies,” said Louisa Willcox of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wolves have been getting killed at a rate of about one per day since the federal government stripped them of Endangered Species Act protections. Today’s ruling means the slaughter must stop.”
The plaintiff conservation groups sued the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in late April, arguing that the government’s decision to delist the wolves was illegal. The groups asked the federal court to reinstate Endangered Species Act protections, while considering arguments that delisting the wolf was unlawful. The request for a court order to stop the killing was filed with a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s wolf delisting decision.
More than 100 wolves have been killed in the states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming since the federal government delisted the wolves on March 28, 2008.
In their request for a preliminary injunction reinstating Endangered Species Act protections, NRDC and 11 other groups argued that “the killing of wolves that have been removed unlawfully from the endangered species list is sufficient to demonstrate irreparable harm.”
The reintroduction of wolves by the federal government 12 years ago has been widely hailed as a major success story. It has measurably improved the natural balance in the Northern Rockies and benefited bird, antelope and elk populations, according to NRDC. Many thousands of visitors flock to Yellowstone National Park each year to see and hear wolves in the wild, contributing at least $35 million to the local economy each year, the group said.
Thousands of gray wolves roamed the Rocky Mountains before being slaughtered and eliminated from 95 percent of the lower 48 states by the 1930s. The gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in 1973. Reintroduction efforts placed 66 wolves in Yellowstone National Park and part of Idaho in 1995-96.
The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of NRDC, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, The Humane Society of the United States, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Friends of the Clearwater,
for the Wild Rockies, Oregon Wild, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Western Watersheds Project, and Wildlands Project.