Wolves are back on the endangered species list, after U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy ruled Thursday that populations in Montana and Idaho cannot be considered separately from Wyoming's wolves.
In a 50-page decision, Molloy said "the rule delisting the gray wolf (in Montana and Idaho) must be set aside because, though it may be a pragmatic solution to a difficult biological issue, it is not a legal one."
With the relisting, this fall's planned wolf hunts in Montana and Idaho are now on hold, at least until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can assure an adequate protection plan in Wyoming.
Specifically, Molloy ruled that the Endangered Species Act does not allow only part of a species to be listed as endangered, nor does it allow a distinct population segment to be subdivided. By separating Wyoming's wolves from Montana's and Idaho's, he said, the agency had violated the law.
At the end of 2009, there were at least 843 wolves in Idaho, 524 in Montana and 320 in Wyoming, with more in parts of Oregon and Washington state.
Higher wolf numbers mean better ungulate management, more aspen, more beaver, and cleaner water. The addition of millions of free-range bison migrating into Canada in the summer and into the Mountain West and upper Great Plains for winter would bring cleansing and renewal to a North America decimated by centuries of anthropogenic plunder.