A federal judge on Thursday criticized the removal of the gray wolf’s protection in Idaho and Montana as political (Matt Volz, AP, 5 Aug) and reinstated Endangered Species Act coverage.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy said the entire Rocky Mountain wolf population either must be listed as an endangered species or removed from the listing, but the protections for the same population can’t vary depending on the state in which various individuals from an estimated population of 1,700 wolves happen to be found roaming.

The federal government in April 2009 turned over wolf management to Montana and Idaho officials but continued federal protection of wolves in Wyoming, where state law is considered hostile to the animals’ survival.

Wolf hunts will now be illegal in Montana and Idaho — sparing 186 wolves from Montana’s autumn wolf-hunt quota.

We welcome and applaud the judge’s decision.