Groups ask U.S. court to restore wolf protections

Tue Aug 9, 2011 12:45pm EDT
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By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters Life!) - Conservation groups have asked a U.S. appeals court to strike down a move by Congress to strip more than 1,500 wolves in Idaho and Montana of federal endangered species protections.

In a petition to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the groups sought to overturn a ruling last week by a federal judge that found Congress did not exceed its authority in April when it allowed a measure removing wolves from the endangered species list in Idaho and Montana.

That ruling, by U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy, came days after Idaho announced plans to cut its wolf population from about 1,000 to no fewer than 150 by extensive hunting and trapping and less than a month after Montana set a wolf hunting quota of 220 out of a population of 566.

"The states want to decimate the wolf population in the Northern Rockies," said Michael Garrity, executive director of the Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies. "We want to stop this massive killing that is about to occur."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the mid-1990s reintroduced fewer than 100 wolves to the region after hunting, trapping and poisoning programs had pushed western wolves nearly to extinction.

The Department of Interior, which oversees the Fish and Wildlife Service, had no immediate comment on the appeal.

As wolf numbers climbed in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, those states have argued in recent years the animals no longer needed Endangered Species Act protections to survive. The federal government agreed, but plans to delist wolves were blocked by conservationists' lawsuits.

Wolves were most recently delisted in Idaho and Montana in 2009 when the Fish and Wildlife Service approved wolf management plans by those two states but rejected one in Wyoming, where it was legal to kill most wolves.   Continued...

<p>A gray wolf and its nursing pups are pictured in Yellowstone National Park in this undated photograph obtained on May 4, 2011. REUTERS/National Park Service/Handout</p>