Conservationists suffered a defeat today when a federal appeals court rejected a lawsuit seeking to restore a ban on wolf hunting, according to The Associated Press.
The news agency said that since Congress had acted last year to remove wolves from the endangered species list, 500 of the animals had been culled in the Northern Rockies.
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According to the AP, Republican Congressman Mike Simpson of Idaho and Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana added a provision to budget legislation last year, declaring that wolves were no longer endangered and could be hunted.
Courts had previously refused to remove wolves from the list even though populations had reached goals for recovery, according to the news agency.
In a lawsuit, wildlife organizations claimed that the new law violated the separation of powers by assuming a role reserved for the courts, according to the AP, which said this had been rejected by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Writing for the bench, Judge Mary Schroeder said Congress had been within its authority when it removed an animal from the endangered species list, the first time lawmakers had ever done so, according to the AP.
Simpson was quoted as saying : "This case has made it clear that those who persist in trying to manage wildlife through the courts, in spite of all scientific evidence that this species has recovered, no longer have a defensible position."
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However Michael Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the groups that had brought the suit, said an appeal to the US Supreme Court was a possibility.
"We're very disappointed and very saddened," he was quoted as saying. "Hundreds of wolves have been hunted and trapped and snared, and they are essential to their ecosystem."
In a statement, WildEarth Guardians carnivore protection director Wendy Keefover agreed: "We are dismayed with the Court’s decision, which failed to uphold the Constitution, sets a bad precedent, and betrays the American vision for a truly wild West.”
According to the Courthouse News Service, Judge Schroeder wrote: "Here, Congress has directed the agency to issue the rule 'without regard to any other provision of statute or regulation that applies to issuance of such rule.'"
"This court has held that, when congress so directs an agency action, with similar language, Congress has amended the law," her opinion said, according to Courthouse News.