Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks submitted its court brief on Wednesday arguing against a federal lawsuit seeking to turn back the decision to remove gray wolves in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho from the federal list of endangered species.

“FWP is continuing its efforts on behalf of Montana to convince the court that the wolf is recovered and state man-agement is the best solution,” Joe Maurier, FWP director FWP, said in a statement. “It’s time for wolves to be managed along with all other wildlife in Montana.”

Maurier stressed that Montana’s wolf population is growing and is well protected by Montana law and properly managed under the state’s federally approved wolf conservation and management plan.

“Montana worked hard, and we kept our promise to do whatever was necessary to recover wolves,” Maurier said. “We succeeded. Wolves are recovered. This wildlife conservation agency is well prepared to ensure that wolves in Montana are managed under a tested, approved and highly regarded science-based conservation plan.”

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The case is before U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy in Missoula for the second time. Under a similar lawsuit filed in 2008, Molloy reinstated federal protection for wolves. In September, however, Molloy denied a preliminary injunction that sought to stop Montana and Idaho’s first wolf hunt.

In announcing the rejection of a preliminary injunction, Molloy’s 14-page ruling indicated that those seeking to reinstate federal protection of wolves might prevail when the actual lawsuit is heard next year.

The recovery goal for wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains was set at a minimum of 30 breeding pairs and a minimum of 300 individual wolves for at least three consecutive years. The goal was achieved in 2002, and the wolf population has increased every year since.

Today, more than 1,600 wolves inhabit the Northern Rocky Mountain Recovery Area, which is composed of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming and parts of Oregon, Washington and Utah. At least 500 wolves now inhabit Montana.

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