Court: Interior can’t take wolves off list

A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled against the Interior Department’s decision to strip protections from a regional population of endangered gray wolves and allow states to openly hunt them.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, arguably the nation’s most important appellate court after the Supreme Court, upheld a lower court’s decision that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of Interior, has the authority to group wolves in the western Great Lakes region into a segment as it did in 2011, but does not have the power to simply remove them from the endangered species list without considering the move’s impact on the entire species of gray wolves in their range.

“When a species is already listed, the service cannot review a single segment with blinders on, ignoring the continuing status of the species’ remnant,” the court ruled.

In affirming the lower court ruling, the judges added to a succession of losses by Interior in an ongoing attempt to delist gray wolves mostly in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as a few in other states — such as Ohio, North Dakota and Indiana — since 2003.

At that time, Fish and Wildlife divided the nation’s population of gray wolves into three segments — western, eastern and southwestern. When district courts in Oregon and Vermont struck down the divisions after legal challenges from conservationists, Fish and Wildlife tried another maneuver. It ruled that a western Great Lakes population of wolves no longer deserved protections and struck them off the endangered list.

— Darryl Fears

School district to allow transgender lavatories

A Pennsylvania school district will allow students to use restrooms that correspond to their “consistently and uniformly asserted gender identity” in settling a federal lawsuit brought last year by three transgender students.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund announced the settlement Tuesday in Pittsburgh with the Pine-Richland School District in the city’s North Hills suburbs.

A federal judge in February blocked the Pine-Richland School District from enforcing interim rules that made bathroom use conditional upon a student’s biological gender only. U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak said then that the district had not demonstrated its policy advances an important governmental interest. Nor was there evidence that personal privacy was being threatened save for a complaint by a parent whose child reported a “boy in the girl’s bathroom” in October 2015, according to the judge.

Two students born anatomically male who now identify as female and one born anatomically female who identifies as male sued in October to overturn the policy.

The transgender students, Juliet Evancho, Elissa Ridenour and another identified only by the initials A.S., were all seniors and have since graduated.

The school district confirmed the settlement. Schools spokeswoman Rachel Hatthorn said board members approved the settlement and related policies at a meeting July 17.

— Associated Press

Governor vetoes school funding plan

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) used his veto power Tuesday to strip millions of dollars for Chicago Public Schools from a school funding overhaul, a move that could mean no districts get state money before classes begin. Rauner removed help for Chicago Public Schools’ pensions along with money the district formerly received in the form of a block grant, along with other rewrites.

The bill now returns to the Democrat-controlled legislature, where a three-fifths vote in both chambers is needed to either override Rauner’s changes or approve them to be able to send money to schools this year. Both options will be difficult.

A new school formula is required as part of a state budget deal that legislators approved in July over Rauner’s veto, ending an impasse that reached a third year. Without the new school funding legislation, districts won’t get paid. The first payment to schools is due Aug. 10.

— Associated Press

Judge allows mental evaluation of shooter’s wife: A judge in Florida is permitting the wife of the Florida nightclub shooter to get a mental evaluation from an expert chosen by prosecutors. The federal judge in Noor Salman’s case said Tuesday that she can be evaluated by a psychologist or psychiatrist picked by prosecutors since her defense attorneys plan to introduce evidence related to her mental health. Salman has pleaded not guilty to obstructing the investigation and aiding and abetting her husband, Omar Mateen, who opened fire at the Pulse nightclub in June 2016. Forty-nine club patrons were killed in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Salman’s trial is set for March.

— Associated Press