U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., has drafted legislation to amend the Endangered Species Act to allow for the delisting of gray wolves in Idaho and Montana.
Rehberg said in an interview Thursday that he is looking for input from Montanans about the draft before he introduces it in Congress.
"You have to have a starting point," he said.
Rehberg's move is in response to a recent ruling from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy that effectively reversed the federal government's delisting of wolves in Montana and Idaho because Wyoming's wolf population remains under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had excluded Wyoming's population after determining the state's plans for managing wolves were inadequate.
"I can't say whether Judge Molloy made the right decision or not" from a legal standpoint, Rehberg said, adding that it is the responsibility of Congress to amend the act.
"I just want to remove the reason that that kind of decision could be made," he said.
"It is contrary to our desire to protect a species and at the same time be reasonable in our approach so it's not heavy-handed," Rehberg said. "It becomes a punishment as opposed to there being incentives to protecting endangered species."
Rehberg said the Endangered Species Act, which was passed in 1973, should not be regarded as sacrosanct and immune from modification. That was the tone of the opposition when the House passed broader changes to the law in 2005.
"In 2005, the House did pass endangered species reform legislation," he said. "It's not unheard of."
That legislation did not clear the Senate, however.
Rehberg said he was approached by Idaho Gov. Butch Otter to sponsor a legislative remedy that would allow for the delisting of Montana and Idaho wolves.
He said the legislation would follow through on Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's decision to delist.
"It's something that the Obama administration should support because they suggested it in the first place," Rehberg said.