Northern Rockies Wolves are safe for now

A federal judge on Saturday rejected a plan negotiated between the government and wildlife advocates to remove most wolves in the Northern Rockies from the Endangered Species List.

The deal struck earlier this month between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and 10 conservation groups would have lifted federal protections from an estimated 1,200 wolves in Idaho and Montana, allowing those states to restore licensed hunting of the animals.

A similar plan for removing Endangered Species Act safeguards for wolves in Montana and Idaho, and turning management of the animals over to state game officials, was implemented by the federal government in 2009.

But 14 conservation groups challenged that move in court, and a U.S. district judge in Missoula, Montana, sided with the environmentalists in August of 2010, ordering federal protections of the wolves restored.

The same judge, Donald Molloy, refused Saturday to approve the latest de-listing plan, which 10 of the 14 conservation groups had hammered out with the Obama administration. The four remaining groups opposed the settlement.

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