BILLINGS, Mont. -- Environmental groups are challenging as unconstitutional Congressional legislation that took gray wolves off the endangered species list.
Two lawsuits were filed in U.S. District Court on Thursday, as control over more than 1,300 wolves was turned over to state authorities in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Utah.
A federal budget bill rider in April mandated the lifting of wolf protections.
Western lawmakers said they wanted to go around a federal judge who blocked prior efforts to hunt the animals.
But environmentalists say that violated the separation of powers required under the Constitution.
Plaintiffs in the lawsuits are the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians.
Hunts for hundreds of wolves are planned this fall in Montana and Idaho.