The suit was filed Monday in Missoula, Mont., and seeks to reverse the delisting decision and force both Idaho and Wyoming to come up with management plans the groups feel would better protect wolves in the Rocky Mountains.
"The Wyoming and Idaho plans are highly insufficient," said Suzanne Stone, wolf conservation specialist for the Northern Rockies region of Defenders of Wildlife.
Since wolves were removed from endangered status on March 28, four wolves in eastern Idaho have been killed, while more than a dozen have been shot in western Wyoming.
In Idaho, wolves can be shot if they are molesting wildlife or pets, and a quota hunting season is planned for this fall (BW, News, "Free and Clear," April, 23, 2008).
Under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife-approved plan, Idaho will will not let the population drop to fewer than 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs, although state wildlife managers said the actual number will be closer to current levels. The state is now home to more than 700 wolves (BW, Features, "Prodigal Son," Feb. 27, 2008).
In Wyoming, wolves are protected only in a few areas outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national park and can be shot on sight otherwise.
Montana's wolf management plan has yet to be passed by its state legislature, although it has been approved by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
"These plans go too far," Stone said. "They are unsustainable and will prevent [wolves] from recolonizing [additional areas]."
The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of 12 other organizations, including the Sierra Club, The Humane Society of the United States, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, Cascadia Wildlands Project, Defenders of Wildlife and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The lawsuit seeks an immediate injunction to the delisting and states that wolves remain threatened "by biased, inadequate state management plans, as well as by the lack of connections between largely isolated state wolf populations."
The conservation groups want Fish and Wildlife to retake control of the species and demand larger populations of wolves with higher penalties for illegal killings.