A federal judge ruled on Thursday that gray wolves in Montana and Idaho must be given the same protections under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) as their counterparts in Wyoming.
U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy concluded that the government's decision to remove, or delist, gray wolves in Montana and Idaho from protection violated the ESA because the law requires such decisions to be made about an entire species, not a subset of a species. The entire northern Rocky Mountain wolf population either must be listed as an endangered species or removed from the list, but the protections for the same population cannot be different from state to state.
In April 2009, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service removed ESA protection for northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves in Montana and Idaho but not Wyoming.
"Today's ruling means that until Wyoming brings its wolf management program into alignment with those of Idaho and Montana, the wolf will remain under the protection of the ESA throughout the northern Rocky Mountains," said Tom Stickland, Department of Interior's assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks.
The decision puts an end to wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho planned for this fall.