Conservation groups went to federal court last week to convince legislators to restore endangered species safeguards for around 1,200 gray wolves in Idaho and Montana, which Congress had removed from protection. The groups believe that Congress exceeded its authority when they intervened in an ongoing court case to remove the wolves from the endangered species list without amending the underlying law–and by keeping this action from judicial review–which some believe to be a shortcut on the part of Congress.
The delisting was part of a budget bill, which President Obama signed into law in April. Government lawyers believe the delisting was an effective amendment to the Endangered Species Act, as it made a special exemption for wolf populations in the Rockies.
Thanks to this delisting, the gray wolf is the first animal ever to be taken off the endangered species list by an act of Congress rather than through the tradition process of scientific review. Environmentalists fear removing the wolf from the list could devastate wolves back to the brink of extinction.
The 1,200 Montana and Idaho wolves are under control of state wildlife agencies, who are developing “management plans” that call for the killing of hundreds of wolves, mostly through public hunting. However, about 300 wolves in Wyoming remain under federal protection.
The delisting plan was presented to U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy as a negotiated settlement between the federal government and 10 conservation groups. Molloy, who had previously ruled against delisting, held that all the wolves involved—whether they lived in Montana, Idaho, or Wyoming–had to be managed together as a single population.
However, days later, Congress voted to override Molloy’s decision and implement the Fish and Wildlife Service’s plan. Molloy spoke out against the move, questioning its lack of judiciary review.
You can read an extensive background on these issues, with a focus on Idaho’s wolves, here.