Three environmental groups on Saturday filed an emergency motion [text, PDF] with the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] requesting that the court halt wolf hunts scheduled to begin in a few weeks in Idaho and Montana. The request calls for a cessation of the upcoming hunting season until the groups' appeal of a federal court decision is determined. Environmentalists believe that the wolf hunts should be prohibited until the population reaches between 2,000 to 5,000 wolves [AP report]. The motion states:
[B]eginning within the next 21 days, hundreds of Gray Wolves that should be protected as endangered species are about to be hunted and killed. Appellants' interests in protecting both individual Gray Wolves in Idaho and Montana and the Gray Wolf population in the Northern Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf Distinct Population Segment outside of Wyoming are about to be irreparably injured.The Alliance for the Wild Rockies (AWR), Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians [advocacy websites] are seeking to reverse the judgment handed down by the lower court, which ruled [opinion, PDF; JURIST report] that Congress did not violate the Constitution when it effectively overturned the court's previous ruling striking down a 2009 delisting rule issued by the US Fish and Wildlife Service [official website]. The rule removed [federal registrar, PDF] the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf [Yellowstone Insider backgrounder] from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) [materials] protection list in all areas outside of Wyoming. The Ninth Circuit was notified [JURIST report] last week that the groups were planning on challenging the lower court's ruling.
The wolves were removed from the shelter of the ESA after a controversial Interior Department memo was published that several animals should be taken off the list despite their numbers not being at a sustainable level. The delisting order leaves the wolves under the purview of the Montana and Idaho state governments. Montana began selling wolf hunting licenses [state hunting regulations, PDF] on the same day as Molloy's ruling. There is no limit on the number of licenses sold, but the hunting season will be closed in hunting districts around the state as regional quotas are reached. Montana hunters will be able to shoot as many as 220 gray wolves in Montana in a hunt scheduled to begin in early September, first with an archery season and then later with a rifle season. The state expects that the hunt will reduce the predator's Montana population by about 25 percent to a minimum 425 wolves. Environmentalists say they believe the population will be reduced further than that.