|| The gray wolf (Canis lupus) once roamed the northern Rocky Mountain region of the United States; however, due to their predation on livestock, the federal government authorized their killing; by 1930 wolves had been almost eliminated in the region. In 1973, the FWS listed the Northern Rocky Mountain Wolf (Canis lupus irremotus) as “endangered,” and in 1978, it listed the gray wolf as “endangered” in the lower 48 States, except Minnesota, where it was listed as “threatened.” In 1994, the FWS captured wolves in Canada, imported them into the United States, and released them in the Yellowstone and central Idaho areas. By 2002, the wolf population had achieved its numerical, distributional, and temporal recovery goals, and the FWS began its delisting process.
In January 2004 and in July 2007, the FWS determined that the States of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming had wolf management plans that would maintain viable wolf populations. Thus, in February 2008, the FWS identified the Northern Rocky Mountain Distinct Population Segment of gray wolf and removed it from the list of threatened and endangered species. In April 2008, environmental groups sued seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the FWS from delisting the wolf, which was granted in July 2008. In October 2008, the court vacated the final delisting rule as well as the FWS determination as to Wyoming and remanded it to the FWS. In October 2008, the FWS reopened the comment period for the vacated rule. MSLF filed comments on November 25, 2008. On April 2, 2009, the FWS issued its rule to delist the wolf in Montana and Idaho.
On June 2, 2009, environmental groups, led by Defenders of Wildlife, again filed suit, and on June 10, 2009, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition filed a second lawsuit, and on June 12, 2009, the cases were consolidated. On June 24, 2009, MSLF filed a motion to intervene on behalf of Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, and MSLF. On June 30, 2009, the Court granted permissive intervention to the Farm Bureaus.
On August 20, 2009, Defenders filed a motion for preliminary injunction to reinstate ESA protections for gray wolves in the northern Rockies in that Idaho’s wolf hunt commences September 1, 2009, and Montana’s wolf hunt commences September 15, 2009. On August 31, 2009, a hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction was held, and on September 8, 2009, the Court denied the motion.
Briefing on Defenders' motion for summary judgment and on cross-motions for summary judgment of the federal government and defendant-intervenors was completed on January 28, 2010. Oral argument on summary judgment motions were held on June 15, 2010. On August 5, 2010, the district court held the listing rule unlawful and set it aside.
On September 30, 2010, MSLF filed a notice of appeal; similar notices were filed by the State of Idaho and Governor Bruce Otter; the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the FWS; the NRA and Safari Club International; and the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. On October 19, 2010, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit consolidated the appeals.
On December 13, 2010, the Ninth Circuit set a schedule governing the appeals. On February 18, 2011, the FWS and Defenders filed a joint motion to stay the briefing schedule for 30 days to conduct settlement negotiations, which the Ninth Circuit granted on February 23, 2011.
On March 18, 2011, the FWS and all environmental plaintiffs (except four that opposed the motion) filed a joint motion requesting that the district court indicate whether it was likely to lift its previous injunction against delisting wolves in Montana and Idaho if the moving parties entered into a proposed settlement and the matter were remanded to the district court. On April 9, 2011, the district court denied the motion.
On April 15, 2011, President Obama signed into law the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, which, in Section 1713, directs the FWS to reissue the 2009 Rule delisting the gray wolf in Montana and Idaho and provides that such action is not subject to judicial review. On May 5, 2011 the FWS reissued the 2009 delisting rule.
On September 13, 2011, the Ninth Circuit stayed the appeals pending the court's resolution of the appeals involving Section 1713 of the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011. On March 14, 2012, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit upheld the district court's ruling regarding the constitutionality of Congress's actions.