MISSOULA - A part of the legal fight over hunting wolves in the Northern Rockies officially disappeared from the record when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declared the case moot this week.
In 2010, federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled that gray wolves were improperly stripped of Endangered Species Act protection in Montana and Idaho.
Later that year, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., got an amendment through Congress declaring wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains a recovered species under the ESA and blocking any further legal review.
Molloy, in a separate decision, agreed that Congress had the power to shield the issue from court review even though he thought such power was unconstitutional. Montana and Idaho resumed public wolf hunts in 2011.
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit granted a motion by the states of Montana and Idaho along with several private hunting and livestock organizations that declared Molloy's wolf ruling "dismissed, vacated and remanded." They ordered Molloy to consider the underlying case as moot.
"The bottom line is environmental groups cannot refer to the Molloy ruling as precedent since the 9th Circuit Court vacated it and wolves in Idaho and Montana remain under state management," Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation spokesman Mark Holyoak said in an email on Thursday.