A New & Welcome Chapter in the Wolf Saga

David Cassuto

I’ve blogged a fair bit about the ill-advised delisting of gray wolves as endangered species in the northern Rockies, as well as about the lawsuit that followed.  When last we left the story, the district court had denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the wolf hunts that subsequently took place in Montana and Idaho.  The judge did indicate, though, that the plaintiffs had a strong chance of prevailing on the merits (the standard for a preliminary injunction is formidably high, as discussed here).               Continue reading

A Sub-Optimal Ruling on the Rocky Mountain Wolf Hunt

WolfJudge Molloy has refused to stop the wolf hunt that has already begun in Idaho and will soon begin (September 15th) in Montana.  Yet his decision to deny the preliminary injunction sought by Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, the Humane Society & others does  acknowledge that the plaintiffs will likely prevail (eventually) on the merits.

Courts will only issue preliminary injunctions (which halt the challenged activity while the court considers its permissibility) when plaintiffs show that they are 1) “likely to succeed on the merits,” (2) that they are “likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief,” (3) that the “balance of equities tips” in their favor, and (4) that such an injunction is in the“public interest.” Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 129 S. Ct. 365, 374 (2008).

In this case, the court determined that it would likely find that the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to delist a portion of a “Distinct Population Segment” of a protected species ran afoul of the Endangered Species Act.  It also concluded that the agency’s decision seemed to contradict its own previous interpretations of its authority under the statute.  Inconsistent agency rulings are not entitled to judicial deference.  Consequently, the court need not defer to the agency’s new interpretation and the plaintiffs would probably prevail. Continue reading