AWR Blog

Emergency Injunction Sought to Stop Montana-Idaho Wolf Hunts

contact Michael Garrity, Executive Director, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, (406) 459-5936

“Seventeen wolves have already been killed during Montana’s early archery wolf-hunting season and sixty wolves in Idaho’s wolf hunting season,” said Mike Garrity, Executive Director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies. “But with the general wolf rifle season opening in Montana and Idaho around the same time the general big game rifle season is also opening, the numbers of humans with rifles in wolf habitat is about to increase exponentially. This translates into a much higher chance of wolf-human interactions as well as a much more efficient mechanism available to kill wolves during those encounters. The only way to stop this senseless, politically-driven wolf slaughter is to seek an Emergency Injunction from the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to stop wolf hunts.”

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, and WildEarth Guardians filed their request Monday, October 17, just days before Montana’s statewide big game rifle hunting season opens. “The science and national attention are turning against the recreational killing of wolves,” Garrity explained. “Nationally, people are already suggesting boycotting Montana and Idaho’s important tourism industry, which is a top revenue producer for both states. Newly-released studies are highly critical of the states’ wolf population estimates. Add in the fact that wolves only accounted for a tiny fraction of livestock losses in Montana, and the wolf hunts are exposed for what they are, which is a politically-driven ruse.”

Idaho has already issued 25,500 wolf hunting permits, and Montana has issued 11,400. “Nearly 37,000 humans armed with high-powered rifles and long-range scopes will now be trying to kill the approximately 1000 wolves remaining in Montana and Idaho,” Garrity added. “Our only option is to seek an immediate halt to what we believe is the illegal killing of wolves, which is an endangered species we’re trying to recover in the Northern Rockies.”

“Not only is the science bogus, we also believe that Congress violated the U.S. Constitution when Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) used a rider on an unrelated appropriation bill to overturn the Federal Court’s decision that wolves should remain protected by the Endangered Species Act,” Garrity added. “In the 37-year history of the Endangered Species Act, this is the first time an endangered species has been removed from protection by Congressional fiat.”

Pointing to a strongly-worded decision recently issued by Montana Federal District Judge Donald Molloy, Garrity explained that “although ruling that he was bound by previous decisions by the Ninth Circuit Court, Judge Molloy was very direct in his opinion on the use of non-related riders on appropriation bills such as used by Senator Tester. Not only did Tester circumvent the Endangered Species Act for pure political expediency, we believe that he also violated the Separation of Powers upon which our government is founded by exempting his rider from judicial review.”

As an example, Garrity offered the following quotes directly from Molloy’s decision:

  •  “Inserting environmental policy changes into appropriations bills may be politically expedient, but it transgresses the process envisioned by the Constitution by avoiding the very debate on issues of political importance said to provide legitimacy. Policy changes of questionable political viability, such as occurred here, can be forced using insider tactics without debate by attaching riders to legislation that must be passed.”
  • “Political decisions derive their legitimacy from the proper function of the political process within the constraints of limited government, guided by a constitutional structure that acknowledges the importance of the doctrine of Separation of Powers. That legitimacy is enhanced by a meaningful, predictable, and transparent process.”
  •  “If I were not constrained by which I believe is binding precedent from the Ninth Circuit, and on-point precedent from other circuits, I would hold Section 1713 [Tester’s rider] is unconstitutional because it violates the Seperation of Powers doctrine articulated by the Supreme Court in U.S. V. Klein . . .”
    “We’re continuing the battle to stop the wolf killing because Judge Molloy’s ruling fully supports our contention that there is a well-established legal process that applies to every other species — pure political expediency should not be the driving force by which of our nation’s imperiled animals and plants will or will not be protected for future generations,” Garrity explained.

Our appeal on the constitutionality of Tester’s rider will eventually be decided before the Ninth Circuit Court,” Garrity continued. “But with the killing about to increase exponentially, we’re seeking an immediate halt to the hunts while the Court considers our case.”

The groups charge in their Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal (attached) that the delisting rider, which was sponsored by Montana’s Democrat U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Idaho’s Republican Representative Mike Simpson, violates the U.S. Constitution because it requires implementation of an agency rule that violates a court decision, but instead of changing the law that the court decision was about, it simply exempts the illegal rule from judicial review.

“While Congress absolutely has the right to make and amend laws, the wolf delisting rider (Section 1713 of the budget law, PL 112-10) does not amend the Endangered Species Act — it circumvents the judicial process and then, by exempting it from judicial review, it basically nullifies the Constitutional checks and balances between Congress and the Judicial Branch of government.”

“Even Montana’s Department of Livestock acknowledges that problems between wolves and the state’s 2.9 million domestic livestock is a localized and insignificant issue at the state level, with so few livestock affected by wolves, that justification for wolf hunting is completely inadequate, ” Garrity stated. In 2009, wolves killed 379 domestic livestock, in 2010, they killed 151, and this year only 79 so far as 2011 draws to a close. Thus, less than one percent of Montana’s livestock is affected by wolves.

“We are doing all we can to hold back the tide of wolf-killing in Montana, Idaho, and elsewhere in the Northern Rockies,” explained Garrity. “This ecologically important species is being unfairly targeted out of ignorance and intolerance and now lack a federal shield from being killed.”

“This is not just about the Endangered Species Act or wolves, it’s about the upholding the Constitution. If Congress can exempt the Tester-Simpson wolf delisting rider from judicial review, it can likewise exempt anything it does. That not only spells disaster for endangered species, but for our entire form of government.

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