Howls of joy for wolves! Judge Donald Molloy in Montana has ordered that the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf goes back on the endangered species list in Montana and Idaho.
The judge's opinion (50 pg pdf) decries the politics of the original delisting. As background, the wolf was placed on the Endangerd Species List in 1974. The animal recovered to the point where the Obama administration delisted the wolf in May 2009 in Montana and Idaho, but not Wyoming. The first two states had what were supposed to be good plans for wolf management; Wyoming's plan for wolf management remained one step above "exterminate 'em all," and thus the wolf remained on the Endangered Species list in that state alone.
The district court disapproved of the "two out of three states ain't bad" approach. The key holding:
The Endangered Species Act does not allow the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list only part of a "species" as endangered, or to protect a listed distinct population segment only in part as the Final Rule here does; and
the legislative history of the Endangered Species Act does not support the Service's new interpretation ofthe phrase "significant portion of its range." To the contrary it supports the historical view that the Service has always held, the Endangered Species Act does not allow a distinct population segment to be subdivided.
Thus, "the rule delisting the gray wolf must be set aside because, though it may be a pragmatic solution to a difficult biological issue, it is not a legal one." (opinion, p.6)
The judge held that the wolf must be either delisted across all three states or kept on the Endangered Species list in all three states. The wolf has one distinct population in the Northern Rocky Mountains (the Mexican gray wolf, clinging to life in Arizona and New Mexico, is an entirely separate distinct population) and it doesn't respect state boundaries. "Even if the [Fish & Wildlife] Service's solution is pragmatic, or even practical, it is at its heart a political solution that does not comply with the ESA [Endangered Species Act]." (opinion, p.49)
The issue remains politically charged, the judge's ruling is relatively narrow, and I expect appeals to follow. Still, it's the second good court ruling in two days for people who care about the rights of people and animals.