Court denies request to stop Montana, Idaho wolf hunts

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By PERRY BACKUS of the Missoulian | Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 6:15 am

Dustin Nielson of Darby's Big Bear Taxidermy examines a wolf pelt from Alaska. Nielson hopes that this year's wolf hunting season will mean more work for the Darby shop where local business has dropped with the recent decline in elk numbers.
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The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request Tuesday for an emergency injunction that would have stopped wolf hunting in the Rocky Mountains.

With Montana's general rifle hunting season set to begin Saturday, three environmental groups asked the court for the injunction Monday.

The court said it will consider the group's motion for an injunction when oral arguments on a pending appeal are made Nov. 8.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians are challenging a congressional rider passed last spring that delisted the gray wolf and prohibited further court challenges.

The delisting action was upheld in U.S. District Court and the groups appealed to the 9th Circuit.

Montana and Idaho authorized wolf hunts this fall.

In Montana, bow and backcountry hunters have killed 11 wolves so far. The state's quota is set at 220. Idaho hunters have killed 60 wolves since that state's season opened Aug. 30.

Montana's big-game wolf hunt begins Saturday.

To date, about 12,300 hunters have purchased wolf licenses in Montana. During the first legal wolf hunting season in 2009, the state sold a total of 15,600 licenses.

FWP Bureau Chief Ron Aasheim said the state was pleased with the decision of the 9th Circuit, allowing the wolf hunt to continue.

Aasheim said sportsmen hoping to hunt wolves must wait five days after buying a license to do so. That rule is in place to keep hunters without a license from shooting a wolf and then buying a license afterward.

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Michael Garrity of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies said he was disappointed with the court's decision to allow the hunt to continue for another three weeks.

"It is a big case," Garrity said. "I understand the court being cautious and not wanting to rule until they hear all the evidence at the oral arguments."

Garrity said his organization was "cautiously optimistic" about the final outcome of the appeal.

Wolf advocates contend the congressional rider delisting wolves was an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. They say Congress cannot tell the court system which issues it can examine.

Rocky Mountain gray wolves were first listed in 1972. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared wolf populations in Montana and Idaho recovered in 2009. Management was turned over to the states that year and the first wolf hunts were held.

A coalition of wolf advocate groups sued over the delisting decision. U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled in their favor in 2010 and returned wolves to federal management.

The 2011 congressional rider reinstated the FWS delisting rule.

In its arguments, the state of Montana said Congress acted within its purview because the rider amended the Endangered Species Act by requiring the Interior secretary to reissue a rule removing the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the list of threatened species.

"The mandated amendment to the rule listing endangered species was an exercise of the authority of Congress to legislate by statute or by an amendment of an agency rule," the state said.

Ravalli County Fish and Wildlife Association president Tony Jones was pleased with the court's decision Tuesday.

"It's great news," Jones said. "It means the hunt can go on and we can go about managing wolves like we manage other big-game animals. Maybe we can get back on track to getting their numbers back to manageable levels."

Read more: http://missoulian.com/news/local/article_a0934cc4-f9ca-11e0-b486-001cc4c002e0.html#ixzz1bljtgOsZ
 

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