Judge to Hear Arguments in Wolf Delisting Lawsuit

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – A federal judge in Missoula will hear oral arguments June 15 on whether gray wolves in Montana and Idaho should be removed from the list of federally protected species.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy filed paperwork Monday scheduling the hearing.

“This is just a hearing on the merits of the case,” said Jenny Harbine, an associate attorney with Earthjustice in Bozeman. “Generally they just reiterate the briefs, but if there is new information that’s proper to come before the court, then that comes in. But usually it’s just an opportunity to answer the judge’s questions about the briefs that have been filed.”

The hearing comes in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of 13 conservation and wildlife groups over whether wolves can be removed from protection under the Endangered Species Act in Montana and Idaho yet remain protected in Wyoming.

Wyoming plans to manage wolves as predators that can be shot on sight and the federal government said that does not afford the animals enough protection.

In a ruling last September, Molloy said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to leave federal protections in place for wolves in Wyoming while removing them in Idaho and Montana appears to violate the law. He said Earthjustice was likely to prevail in its lawsuit, but he denied the group’s request for an injunction stopping hunts in Montana and Idaho, saying the population could withstand a hunt.

Molloy isn’t expected to issue an immediate ruling.

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