Shielding the delisting of Rocky Mountain gray wolves from court review didn’t violate the Constitution’s separation of powers doctrine, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.
A three-judge panel unanimously rejected the arguments of several environmental groups that claimed wolves lost their federal Endangered Species Act protection in Montana and Idaho before their populations had recovered. Last year, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and U.S. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, passed an amendment giving Montana and Idaho wildlife agencies control of wolf populations in their states and blocking further judicial review.
The case pitted the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater, Wildearth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity against the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Mountain States Legal Foundation, National Rifle Association, Safari Club International and other wildlife groups filed supporting arguments on the government’s side.
The 9th Circuit judges found that Congress changed the law governing wolf management, but did not order courts to make any specific findings, which “does not violate the constitutional separation of powers” between the legislative and judicial branches of government. They also found the Tester-Simpson amendment didn’t repeal any part of the Endangered Species Act, or prevent anyone from challenging wolf management under the existing Fish and Wildlife Service and state policies.