Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Appeals court upholds dismissal of Wyoming wolf lawsuit

By MEAD GRUVER - Associated Press Writer

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) -- A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of Wyoming's lawsuit against the federal government over how wolves should be managed in the state after their removal from Endangered Species Act protection.

Wyoming filed suit after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected its plan for managing wolves in 2004. The agency is requiring Montana, Idaho and Wyoming to submit acceptable plans for managing the animals before it will remove them from the endangered species list.

The Montana and Idaho plans were accepted. Wyoming's was rejected in part because it would classify wolves as a potential nuisance that could be shot on site outside the Yellowstone area.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver upheld a ruling by U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson in March 2005. Johnson denied the state's claim that the federal government violated the Endangered Species Act in rejecting the plan. The act didn't come into play because the rejection didn't determine wolves' status under the act, Johnson said.

Johnson said the Endangered Species Act's requirements for scientific review only would come into play with delisting, or when wolves come up for status review under the act in 2008 -- five years after they were downgraded in parts of the West from "endangered" to "threatened."

The appeals court upheld that view without elaborating.

The three-judge panel said in a four-page ruling that unlike the lower court, it would not express an opinion on Wyoming's claims with regard to the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act.

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