By Michael Howell
Three environmental organizations have filed an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Donald Molloy’s most recent ruling that upheld removal of the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf from the Endangered Species list and opened the way for wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho.
Back in August of 2010 Molloy made a ruling that the delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho without simultaneously delisting the wolves in Wyoming was illegal. He argued that enforcement of the Endangered Species Act could not be artificially divided along state lines.
Following that ruling legislation was attached as a rider to a Department of Defense spending bill that once again allows for the delisting of the wolves. The rider also contained a provision prohibiting judicial review of the new law. As a result, both Idaho and Montana have planned wolf hunts for this fall. Sale of wolf hunting permits began in Montana last week. The state plans on allowing up to 220 wolves to be killed in the hunt. Idaho has not placed any limit on the number of wolves that could be killed.
That law was challenged in court and Molloy, although unhappy with the Congressional action, upheld it in an August 3, 2011 ruling. Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians have appealed that decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Opening briefs in the case are due by mid-November.
The groups argue that delisting of an endangered species should be based on science and not on politics. They argue that the ban on legal challenges in the new law nullifies the US Constitutional guarantee of checks and balances between Congress and the Courts.
In his ruling Molloy clearly expressed distaste for the Congressional action, characterizing it as “a tearing away, an undermining, and a disrespect for the fundamental idea of the rule of law.” But he upheld the reinstatement of the rule based on a previous 9th Circuit Court ruling.
“The language ‘without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation’ operates as a talisman that ipso facto sweeps aside Separation of Powers concerns,” he wrote.