Court rejects lawsuit, lets wolf hunt continue
BILLINGS | A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected a lawsuit from conservation groups that want to block wolf hunts that have killed more than 500 of the predators across the Northern Rockies in recent months.
The ruling from a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Congress had the right to intervene when it stripped protections from wolves last spring.
Lawmakers stepped in after court rulings kept wolves on the endangered list for years after they reached recovery goals. Wildlife advocates claimed in their lawsuit that Congress violated the separation of powers by interfering with the courts.
But in an opinion authored by Judge Mary Schroeder, the court said Congress was within its rights, and that lawmakers had appropriately amended the Endangered Species Act to deal with Northern Rockies wolves.
That amendment marked the first time Congress has forcibly removed a species’ endangered status. It was tacked onto a federal budget bill by Idaho Republican Rep. Michael K. Simpson and Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester.
“This case has made it clear that those who persist in trying to manage wildlife through the courts, in spite of all scientific evidence that this species has recovered, no longer have a defensible position,” Mr. Simpson said Wednesday.
The Utah Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste has given base officials a notice of violation for the 2007 mercury spill. The agency says the spill was handled by untrained workers and stored in plastic containers.
Division Director Scott Anderson says the maximum fine is $13,000 per day. That could mean a fine of more than $18 million.
Attorney Scot Boyd says the problem was first reported by a former employee who handled the mercury at the base about 35 miles north of Salt Lake City. The employee is concerned about the environmental dangers of the stored mercury.