According to an article in the Lewiston Tribune by Eric Barker, (subscription required) a panel of 11 judges in the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals, unanimously ruled that judges should not act as scientists in rendering decisions. This was in reference to a hearing on the environmental impact of a logging operation in Northern Idaho.
The 11-member panel of judges ruled that judges should “give discretion to expert scientists” providing their science isn’t “arbitrary or capricious”. Barker’s article also gives reference to a similar ruling in which a case was overturned to stop another logging operation simply because two sides disagreed with the impact of the logging operation.
The decision from the 9th Circuit also overturned an injunction it granted in 2005 in a case about salvage logging in the Lolo National Forest. In that case, the appeals court overturned a decision by Judge Donald Molloy refusing to grant an injunction to an environmental group to stop the logging. Molloy wrote in 2003 that the Forest Service and the environmental group disagreed about the environmental effects of logging, but he deferred to agency scientists, saying he was “not in a position to settle scientific disputes.”
What does this all mean? Some sportsman’s groups think this will help their cause to ward off a lawsuit, led by Defenders of Wildlife, which is an injunction to stop the delisting of the Northern Rockies gray wolf. The three states, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana, all plan on having controlled wolf hunts this fall and animal rights and anti-hunting groups want to stop the hunt.
Judge Donald Molloy recently heard oral arguments in this case and some are thinking this ruling by the 11 judges and the decision recently made by Judge Molloy is a positive indication that the injunction will not be granted.
The animal rights groups disagree saying that they have proven to Judge Molloy that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service disregarded their own science when making the decision to remove the wolf from the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
Oral arguments on the injunction case were heard in late May and Judge Molloy has yet to make a ruling.
Dr. Mech is a leading wolf scientist for the U.S. Department of Interior and Dr. Knight is Associate Director of Montana State Extension and prior to that was a Wildlife Specialist Professor at Montana State. Both scientists declare support for the delisting and present evidence to support.