We May Have Lost The Battle But Will Likely Win the War

September 21, 2009

This speaks for all who are devastated by the killing of wolves in Idaho and Montana.  It reflects the hope and despair of the past few months in the latest round of Wolf  Wars that plague the Northern Rockies.  The decision by Judge Molloy to deny the injunction that would have stopped the hunts, was a blow to all wolf  lovers but all is not lost.  We may have lost this battle but will win the war and see wolves relisted. 


Motion For Preliminary Injunction Denied; Wolf Hunts To Proceed Unabated

Wolf photo by SigmaEye on Flickr

Matt Skoglund

Posted September 9, 2009 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places
Wildlife Advocate, Livingston, Montana
Last night, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy denied our request for a preliminary injunction to stop the wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana and restore Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in both states while our underlying lawsuit challenging the delisting rule moves forward.

Judge Molloy’s ruling is both good and bad for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

In order to prevail on our motion, we needed to demonstrate that (1) we are likely to succeed on the merits of our lawsuit and (2) the wolf population in the Northern Rockies is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction (i.e., if the wolf hunts proceeded).

Noting that the standard for irreparable harm requires injury that is significant to the overall population of Northern Rockies wolves, the court found that killing 330 wolves in Montana and Idaho does not constitute irreparable harm.

As such, the wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho will transpire this fall unabated, which is horrible news for wolves in the region.

The good news is that the court found we demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of our case.  Judge Molloy’s order focused on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to leave wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list but to delist wolves in Montana and Idaho.  Specifically, the court stated:

The [U.S. Fish and Wildlife] Service has distinguished a natural population of wolves based on a political line, not the best available science.  That, by definition, seems arbitrary and capricious.

In our lawsuit, NRDC and 12 other conservation groups, represented by Earthjustice, are challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s March 2009 decision to remove wolves in Idaho and Montana prematurely from the endangered species list.  Notwithstanding the denial of our motion for a preliminary injunction, the lawsuit will continue and a hearing on the merits of the case is now expected in early 2010.

The court’s finding that we demonstrated we are likely to succeed on the merits of our case is absolutely great news.  If, in the merits phase of the case, Judge Molloy deems the Fish and Wildlife Service’s state-by-state application of the Endangered Species Act illegal, as his order signifies he will, then wolves in Idaho and Montana will return to the endangered species list.

That said, the next few months will be grim for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

On September 1st, Idaho’s wolf hunt began in two of its twelve hunting zones.  Four wolves have been reported killed thus far, one of which was killed illegally.  Two more zones will be open for wolf-hunting on September 15th, and the remaining zones will open on October 1st.  Idaho’s quota for the wolf hunt is 220 wolves for the general hunt and another 35 wolves for the Nez Perce Tribe. 

In Montana, the backcountry wolf hunt begins on September 15th, and the general hunt begins on October 25th.  Montana’s quota for the wolf hunt is 75 wolves.

While we are thrilled with part of Judge Molloy’s ruling, the fact remains that 330 wolves in the Northern Rockies are slated to be killed this fall. 

And forever silencing the howls of so many wolves has left a palpable sense of despair in those who love wolves, wilderness, and wildness.


Posted in: 2009 Wolf Delisting, Wolf Wars

Tags: Endangered species act, ESA lawsuit wolves, gray wolf/canis lupus, wolf intolerance, wolf recovery

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