For Immediate Release, August 3, 2011
Contact: Kierán Suckling, 520.623.5252 ext. 305
Court Reluctantly Denies Challenge to Congressional Rider That Stripped Wolves of Protection
Decision Leaves Wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah Without Endangered Species Act Protection
MISSOULA, Mont.— A federal judge today denied a challenge brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations to a congressional budget rider that stripped Endangered Species Act protections for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains. The federal judge upheld the constitutionality of the rider but also condemned Congress’s actions as an infringement on the judiciary.
“If I were not constrained by what I believe is binding precedent from the Ninth Circuit, and on-point precedent from other circuits, I would hold Section 1713 is unconstitutional because it violates the Separation of Powers doctrine . . . ,” wrote U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy. He further describes the rider as “a tearing away, an undermining, and a disrespect for the fundamental idea of the rule of law.”
The rider is the first time that Congress exempted a species from the Endangered Species Act. Judge Molloy expressed his distaste for Congress’s overreaching, explaining that the Endangered Species Act “protects imperiled species, without regard to the popularity of the animal or plant. It does not just protect species when politically convenient. . . . [The rider] sacrifices the spirit of the ESA to appease a vocal political faction, but the wisdom of that choice is not now before this Court.”
The decision means that hunting seasons in Idaho and Montana that are designed to drastically reduce wolf populations will move forward. It also leaves fledgling wolf populations in eastern Oregon and Washington and northern Utah without protection.
“Today’s decision means that hundreds of wolves that need protection won’t get it,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center. “Although wolf numbers have risen, the job of wolf recovery in the northern Rocky Mountains is far from complete.”
The Center and other conservation groups had challenged a congressional budget rider, approved in April, that removed Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah. The decision marked the first time that Congress, rather than scientists, took a plant or animal off the endangered species list. The groups asserted that Congress violated the separation-of-powers clause of the U.S. Constitution because it ordered an outcome in ongoing litigation without amending the underlying law and blocked judicial review, effectively negating the role of the judiciary.