Friday, May 6, 2011

Wolves Off U.S. Endangered Species List, Lawsuit Seeks Reinstatement

WASHINGTON, DC, May 5, 2011 (ENS) - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today issued a final rule to remove protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies under the Endangered Species Act. The rule is identical to the 2009 delisting rule that was struck down by a federal court in August 2010.

Effective immediately, the rule will return management authority over wolves to the states of Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Utah, while retaining federal control in Wyoming until an adequate state management plan is developed.

The rule is required by a rider added to the continuing budget resolution passed by Congress last month that funds the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year.

The rider was attached to the federal budget bill by Senator Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, and Representative Mike Simpson, an Idaho Republican, and marked the first time an animal or plant has been removed from the endangered species list by Congress.

That rider was challenged in court today by the Center for Biological Diversity. The nonprofit group filed a challenge in federal court in Missoula, Montana, arguing that a congressional rider requiring removal of Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains is unlawful because it violates the separation of powers in the U.S. Constitution.

"The wolf rider is a clear example of overreaching by Congress that resulted in the wrongful removal of protections for wolves," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The rider is not only a disaster for wolves but for any endangered species that a politician doesn't like. Congress has set a terrible precedent that we hope to overturn."

The group's case is based on Article III of the U.S. Constitution, which establishes the principle of "separation of powers." This principle dictates that the judicial power of the United States lies in the federal courts and not in Congress.

In this case, the Center argues, "Congress violated the principle by inserting itself into an ongoing legal case brought by conservation groups over the fate of wolves in the northern Rockies."

Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife, said, "While today's announcement comes as no surprise, the action taken by Congress and the Obama administration last month to strip federal protections for wolves was unwarranted and extremely disappointing. It has undermined our nation's commitment to good stewardship and sets a terrible precedent for side-stepping America's bedrock environmental laws whenever it's politically convenient to do so.

"However, wolves can still have a bright future in the Northern Rockies if states manage them responsibly as they have promised in the past. The elected leaders of Montana and Idaho, in particular, continue to assert that their states know best how to manage wildlife. Now is their chance to prove it." Full story at link

Related Articles:

U.S. Department of Interior Begins Delisting of Gray Wolves in Eight States
Washington, DC --( On the heels of legislation passed last month with the support of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus (CSC) as part of the FY 2011 budget agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced this week that it is lifting Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for 5,500 grey wolves in eight states in the Northern Rockies and Great Lakes and has published a proposed rule to remove gray wolves from ESA designation in the Western Great Lakes.

Groups sue to regain wolf protection
Three environmental groups joined to file a lawsuit Thursday to return federal protection to gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, arguing that politicians are deciding the fate of an endangered species.

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