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For Immediate Release, March 14, 2012

Contact: Michael Robinson, (575) 313-7017

Appeals Court Denies Challenge to Congressional Rider That Stripped
Northern Rocky Mountain Wolves of Endangered Species Act Protection

SAN FRANCISCO— The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals today denied a challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and its partners to a congressional budget rider than stripped Endangered Species Act protections from wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. A three-judge panel rejected the conservation organizations’ argument that the rider is unconstitutional because it violates the separation-of-powers doctrine.

“Congress set a terrible precedent by passing this backdoor rider that took away protection from wolves. Scientists, not politicians, need to decide which species need protection,” said Michael Robinson, a wolf expert at the Center. “That’s the law. And that’s what makes sense if we’re going to save animals and plants from extinction.”

The rider marked the first time Congress has removed a plant or animal from the endangered species list. The rider directed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reissue a rule removing federal protections from northern Rocky Mountain wolves, despite ongoing litigation over the lawfulness of that delisting rule.

Today’s ruling holds that the rider is constitutional because it amends the Endangered Species Act by exempting the delisting rule from all law. The panel rejected arguments by conservation groups that Congress violated the separation-of-powers doctrine because the rider blocked judicial review and ordered an outcome, in ongoing litigation, without clearly amending the Endangered Species Act, effectively negating the role of the judiciary. 

“We will continue to fight the good fight on behalf of wolves across the country,” said Robinson. “These incredible animals deserve a shot at recovery beyond just the few pockets where they eke out a living today.”

After Endangered Species Act protections lifted in April 2010, the state of Idaho authorized hunting and trapping seasons with no limit on how many wolves can be killed and committed to maintain only 150 wolves out of an estimated population of at least 1,000. Montana set a hunting quota of 220 wolves with a goal of reducing the population by 25 percent. In Oregon, where the wolf population includes just two dozen or so wolves, state wildlife officials killed two wolves last year and planned to kill two more, but have been temporarily stopped by a state lawsuit filed by the Center and others. 

“Wolves have been an integral part of North American landscapes for millions of years and are cherished, iconic animals that deserve a future in this country,” said Robinson. “If we want to keep wilderness alive in America, we need to keep our wolves.”

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