Wolves in Montana and Idaho have been granted a temporary reprieve, following the rejection of a plan to remove them from the Endangered Species List.
A deal outlining the wolf’s removal from the Act was made between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 conservation groups, but was rejected over the weekend by Donald Molloy, a U.S. district judge.
The plan would have lifted federal protection from an estimated 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana, allowing each state to restore licensed hunting of the animals.
Molloy previously restored protection of wolves in Montana and Idaho in late 2010, after 14 conservation groups challenged an earlier agreement from 2009 which removed wolves from the Endangered Species Act and turned their management over to state game officials.
10 out of the 14 conservation groups that last year opposed the de-listing were involved with drawing up the new proposal, alongside the Obama administration. However, Molloy said of the decision on Saturday that to reverse his August 2010 decision would be “tantamount to sanctioning an illegal action”.
He ruled that the government was mistaken in wanting to remove protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana, while leaving them intact for wolves in neighbouring Wyoming.
Molloy said that the wolves in all 3 states were part of a single population that could not be treated separately under the Endangered Species Act.
Wyoming has an estimated population of 500 wolves, which were left out of de-listing proposals by the Fish and Wildlife Service because the state management plan would generally have allowed wolves to be shot on sight. Idaho and Montana’s plans involve licensed-hunting regimens.
Future still uncertain
However, despite the latest ruling, the outcome of wolf protection in the Northern Rockies remains unclear. Amendments to bills in Congress and proposed changes to state laws could still mean that wolves may ultimately be removed from the Endangered Species Act, eliminating the protection currently in place for these large canids.
Find out more about the grey wolf on ARKive.
Helen Roddis, ARKive Species Text Author