Federal appeals court shoots down wolf advocates

A conservation group that raised litigation in efforts to protect the livelihood of wolves throughout the Northern Rockies was turned back when a federal appeals court shot down its lawsuit recently. The move was made to cease the hunting of these animals, located in areas that included portions of eastern Oregon, among other northwestern states.

Hunters and trappers were attributed to the demise of 500 of these animals over the last few months within the Northern Rockies. Last spring, Congress moved to lift policies that protected wolves from hunters. Just recently, a panel of three judges with the United States Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to do so, and its decision stands.

Congress chose to step in after courts continued to list wolves as an endangered species, even though their population had recovered enough to lift them out of that criterion. Advocates for the wolves claim that Congress violated the Constitution by stepping in and making the changes, thus, undermining the courts.

That's not how the Court of Appeals saw it, though. One of the judges wrote in an opinion that Congress made changes to the Endangered Species Act, which is what lawmakers are permitted to do. Courts simply must determine whether those laws are being followed or not.

The situation is somewhat groundbreaking as it was the first time lawmakers have ever stepped in to remove endangered species status from an animal. The amendment was introduced by a Republican representative from Idaho and Democratic senator from Montana.

Wolves were originally placed on the endangered list in 1974. Over $100 million have been spent in efforts to restore their population. Now, the Northern Rockies area alone is home to over 1,700 wolves. A similar move was made in the Great Lakes area where the protection was lifted off wolves in December of last year.

Meanwhile, the groups that are fighting to retain protection for the wolves are considering an appeal to the Supreme Court, but have not yet decided to do so or not.

Source: Associated Press, "Federal appeals court allows wolf hunt to continue," March 14, 2012

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