he following is from The Associated Press:
A proposal to allow public hunting of wolves in parts of the Northern Rockies faces its first legal test Thursday, as it goes before a federal judge in Montana who has twice rebuffed attempts to lift protections for the predators.
The hearing before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula follows a settlement agreement last week between the Obama administration and 10 conservation groups.
Facing pressure from Western lawmakers in Congress, the groups agreed to give up their fight to keep almost 1,300 wolves on the endangered list in Idaho and Montana. In exchange, protections would remain in place at least temporarily for about 400 wolves in Wyoming, Oregon, Washington and Utah.
Molloy has rejected past government decisions on wolves that he said were politically motivated. He is being asked to do so again by several wildlife advocacy groups that refused to sign off on the settlement with the administration.
An attorney for one of the dissenting groups referred to the settlement as “political theater.”
During Montana this Morning, Nikki Laurenzo with KTVQ interviewed former US Attorney for Montana Bill Mercer about today’s hearing in Missoula.
“The settling plaintiffs would give up their right to challenge any new delisting rule for five years — during which time untold numbers of wolves could be unnecessarily and unlawfully killed,” attorney Summer Nelson wrote in a brief filed by the Western Watersheds Project.
Even if Molloy agrees to let the settlement go forward, it also needs to clear the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which had been asked by the federal government to reconsider Molloy’s most recent order to reinstate protections for wolves.
Supporters of the settlement said they want to get past two decades of legal battles over wolves in the West. At the same time, they hoped to avoid legislation from Congress that could have broader implications for other plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks attorney Robert Lane said the settlement contains assurances that wolves would not be hunted to extermination. He noted that the U.S. Department of Interior agreed to an independent review of the animal’s status within four years of the enactment of the settlement.
“It’s sort of like a test drive of state management” of wolves, Lane said.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.
Posted by Haylie Shipp