(This is a revision/update of yesterday’s post.)
While Congress fought itself to a draw on the budget this week, with both sides claiming victory, few noticed the action of a certain federal judge in Missoula, Mont. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy rejected a plan negotiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 of 14 conservation groups that would have removed the wolves of Idaho and Montana from the endangered species list.
“It is inappropriate in my view to indicate approval of a settlement that is approved by some of the parties, deplored by others, and protracts the dilemma for all who have been engaged in the litigation dispute,” Molloy wrote. (Read Molloy’s full opinion here.)
As it turns out, however, this ruling meant nothing. A rider from Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) survived Friday night’s eleventh hour budget battle in Washington and is part of the bill to be approved this week. It will accomplish legislatively what was not achieved judicially: the wolves will be delisted by an act of Congress and the courts will be barred from overruling it. The rider supersedes both the compromise, with its provisions to help ensure the wolves’ continuing survival, and Molloy’s ruling. There has been no explanation of how or why the delisting of a protected species belongs in a budget bill or how any law can be exempt from judicial challenge.
Meanwhile, Idaho’s Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter is considering a law declaring the wolves in his state a “disaster emergency,” allowing state and local law enforcement officers to kill them. He says he intends to get out of the wolf monitoring business altogether and will stop investigating wolf kills.
It looks like the wolves’ days as a protected species are numbered. We can only hope those days have been sufficient to establish a sustainable population and that the states ultimately will be responsible enough to ensure the wolves are not wiped out — again.
Previously on Pied Type:
Judge ensures a safer autumn for gray wolves