Federal Judge to Consider Gray Wolf Yet Again

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The debate over the gray wolf focuses on a courtroom in Missoula on Thursday, March 24. Anti-wolf activists have scheduled what they call a "Rotten Deal Protest" outside the U.S. District Courthouse where Federal Judge Donald Molloy will decide, once again, whether to take wolves in Idaho and Montana off the Endangered Species List.

The anti-wolf faction is upset with a proposed settlement with 10 of the 14 plaintiffs in a long-running lawsuit over the status of gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. The settlement depends, in part, on Molloy agreeing not to enforce his August 2010 ruling that returned wolves to federal protection in Idaho and Montana. The settlement would allow wolves to be delisted in the two states until Wyoming creates a wolf management plan acceptable to the federal government. When that occurs, a new rule could remove wolves from the Endangered Species List in all three states.

But a new wrinkle surfaced on March 22, when a minority faction of the plaintiffs asked Molloy to reject the proposed settlement. Friends of the Clearwater, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and Western Watersheds Project filed formal documents, saying nothing changed since Molloy ruled the government's wolf delisting was illegal, and their colleagues had merely given into the fears of a congressional intervention.

Meanwhile, the Idaho Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit the state from investigating, arresting or prosecuting anyone who kills a gray wolf. The bill, proposed by Republican Rep. Phil Hart of Athol, would also prohibit state employees from helping federal agencies to arrest or prosecute someone who kills a wolf. The measure cleared a House committee on March 21, but is expected to be amended before hitting the House floor for full debate.