MISSOULA, Mont.- Responding to the latest legal wrangling by environmental groups, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation again has entered into federal court an amicus curiae brief supporting wolf population management via state-regulated hunting in Idaho and Montana.

The move means U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy will consider RMEF positions against the environmental groups’ request for summary judgment in a lawsuit seeking to stop the hunts and return gray wolves to the endangered species list.

A summary judgment is a determination made by a court without a full trial.

Molloy is expected to rule early in 2010.

In September, Molloy denied the environmental groups’ request for an emergency injunction. Following a hearing in Missoula, Mont., Molloy ruled that plaintiffs had failed to demonstrate how hunting would cause irreparable harm to wolf populations. RMEF documents, filed shortly before the hearing, were considered in that decision.

The ruling allowed wolf hunting to proceed in Idaho and Montana. By early December, hunters had taken approximately 184 wolves out of an estimated 1,500-plus total population in the northern Rockies; a harvest well below the combined quota.

However, in the September ruling, Molloy also said complaints alleging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service improperly delisted wolves in Idaho and Montana, but not Wyoming, could have legal merit. Plaintiffs trumpeted the legal opening and filed a motion for summary judgment based on this argument.
“Their attack on hunting proved unpersuasive so now they’re backing up and citing a procedural issue related to the Endangered Species Act. This legal wrangling has drug on well past the point of ridiculousness. This is what happens when you’ve got well-funded plaintiffs who can’t be bothered by on-the-ground facts, logic or common sense. That’s not how conservation works,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO.

RMEF entered its new amicus curiae brief by last week’s deadline.

The 37-page document reinforces four main themes:

* Historic success of modern, hunter-based conservation in North America.

* Viewpoints of hunters who continue to pay for the big-game resources that made wolf recovery possible.

* RMEF-funded research, along with other scientific and anecdotal evidence, showing that wolf populations are fully recovered and that, where wolves are present with elk, wolves are having detrimental impacts on elk.

* State wildlife agencies are best suited to manage wolves alongside other species.