The government can remove the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf from the endangered species list, the 9th Circuit ruled Wednesday, paving the way for continued hunting of the predators in several western states.
The federal appeals court in Pasadena, Calif., found that Congress had not overstepped its authority when it delisted the wolf species in a rider to a defense department bill last April.
A Montana federal judge found the move constitutional a few months later, tossing a suit from animal activist groups who also pleaded unsuccessfully to stop hunts planned in several states in the wake of the delisting.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) initially removed the species from the list in 2009, but a federal judge blocked the agency's final rule on the issue. The court said the agency had violated the Endangered Species Act by protecting a listed species only across part of its range.
Wolves remained protected until the passage of an appropriations bill by Congress this past April. A rider to that bill directed USFWS to reissue the 2009 rule.
The groups had argued that congressional removal of an endangered species from the list violated the separation of powers doctrine. A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit unanimously disagreed.
"Here, Congress has directed the agency to issue the rule 'without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule,'" Judge Mary Schroeder wrote for the court. "This court has held that, when congress so directs an agency action, with similar language, Congress has amended the law."
Reprinted in part from Courthouse News