ENDANGERED SPECIES -- Conservation groups reached a legal settlement today with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that paves the way for gray wolves once again to be removed from endangered species protections in Idaho and Montana.
The settlement was filed for approval with a U.S. Federal District Court in Montana. If approved by the court, the agreement would remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Idaho and Montana and return management authority -- and the option for controlled hunting -- to those states, while retaining full protection in Washington, Oregon, Wyoming and Utah.
The settlement also will require the Department of the Interior to withdraw a controversial policy memo used to justify not protecting imperiled species throughout their entire range.
Click here to read the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service press release announcing the settlement.
Following is from a joint statement issued by the 10 conservation groups:
“We hope today’s agreement will mark the beginning of a new era of wolf conservation in the Northern Rockies, as well as confirm the success of the Endangered Species Act and this country’s boldest wildlife reintroduction effort in history. The proposed settlement maintains protections in Oregon and Washington where wolves have not yet fully recovered, while allowing for responsible state management in Idaho and Montana.
“In return for allowing the states of Montana and Idaho to manage wolves according to approved conservation plans, the Department of the Interior agrees to conduct rigorous scientific monitoring of wolf populations across the region and an independent scientific review by an expert advisory board after three years. This is a critical safety net to ensure a sustainable wolf population in the region over the long run. The settlement offers a workable solution to the increasingly polarized debate over wolves.
The 10 conservation groups that have agreed to the settlement are Cascadia Wildlands, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Hells Canyon Preservation Council, Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oregon Wild, Sierra Club and Wildlands Network.