BOISE, Idaho – A federal judge has denied a proposed settlement agreement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 conservation groups that would have lifted endangered species protections for wolves in Montana and Idaho.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula on Saturday rejected the agreement that could have led to public hunting of 1,300 wolves in the two states.

Molloy cited the court’s lack of authority to put part of a federally endangered species population under state management and expose that population to hunting.

Saturday amounted to a one-two punch for the 10 conservation groups as Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Idaho Republican Rep. Mike Simpson on the same day announced wolves in Montana and Idaho would be taken off the endangered list under the budget bill pending before Congress.

One of the reasons the 10 conservation groups agreed to the settlement was the growing likelihood of congressional action to reduce wolf numbers in Montana and other states because of wolf attacks on livestock and declines in some big-game herds. The groups hoped a favorable court decision would provide greater protection for wolves than would lawmakers.

So besides the court loss on Saturday, their fears concerning removal of federal protections for wolves also became more real.


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