By Mike Bodenchuk, Editor-at-Large
A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia recently ruled in favor of the Wyoming management plan for wolves, reversing a lower court opinion that invalidated the delisting of wolf in that state. The original lawsuit, brought by Defenders of Wildlife and other antihunting groups, overturned the delisting of wolves and stopped wolf hunting in Wyoming.
In a complex case that involved defining terms such as "substantial portion of their range" and "genetic exchange," the court sided with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Wyoming regarding the appropriateness of delisting wolves. This ruling is a first step toward hunting wolves again in Wyoming.
Before rendering its opinion, the court sought information on wolf harvest under sport hunting regulations in Montana and Idaho and noted that under state management those populations had not only been stable but growing. They also noted that genetic exchange had occurred, ensuring that wolf populations were secure.
However, the state of Wyoming will not be able to take over management of wolves immediately. A similar lawsuit regarding wolves was filed in the Great Lakes Distinct Population (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota), and doubtless both sides in the battle are reexamining this recent opinion while deciding how to proceed in that case....