Ranchers have lost their bid to oppose restoring wolves to the endangered species list at a federal court hearing in November.
Two judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined Oct. 12 to summarily reverse a lower court ruling barring four agricultural groups from intervening in lawsuits filed by environmental groups.
In a one-page order, Judges William Fletcher and Jay Bybee ruled the agricultural coalition could pursue its appeal, but must follow a briefing schedule that will delay a decision past the Nov. 12 hearing.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland will hear arguments that day. The Justice Department has moved to dismiss the suits, while environmental groups want White to reinstate federal protection.
White denied letting the American Farm Bureau, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Public Lands Council and American Sheep Industry Association help defend delisting.
White already had granted intervenor status to the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International. White ruled the agricultural groups were adequately represented by the sportsmen.
The agricultural groups argue White’s ruling was wrong and sought for it to be reversed this week to allow them to speak at the hearing. Fletcher and Bybee, however, ruled there was no clear error to allow for a reversal without further briefs.
The agricultural groups could still gain intervenor status and the right to appeal White’s ruling. The coalition has until Nov. 23 to file briefs with the appeals court.
“We are disappointed that the courts have refused agriculture a seat at the table in defending the gray wolf delisting,” American Farm Bureau senior counsel for public policy Travis Cushman said in a statement.
“The wolf is an endangered species success story. Its numbers have grown to healthy levels thanks to careful partnerships at the federal and state levels. Responsible management should now continue at the state level to ensure the protection of the gray wolf and the private property of America’s farmers and ranchers,” he said.
The agricultural coalition argued that while sportsmen want to hunt wolves, their members have a broader interest in managing wolves to protect livestock and see that ranchers are compensated for losses.
The Trump administration in 2020 delisted wolves throughout the Lower 48. Wolves in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and the eastern one-third of Oregon and Washington already were considered recovered.
While defending the 2020 delisting, the Biden administration has started reviewing the status of wolves everywhere, citing expanded wolf hunting in Idaho and Montana.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2020 that wolves in California and the western two-thirds of Oregon and Washington were extensions of a robust population in the northern Rocky Mountains.
Environmental groups argue delisting was premature because wolves on the West Coast and around the Great Lakes have not colonized their historic range.