The recent ups and downs of wolf de-listing have split environmentalists over strategy. This week, a handful of conservation groups filed an appeal in San Francisco to return wolves to the endangered species list. But other groups feel the battle won't be won in the courts.

The latest legal battle over wolves seeks to overturn a decision in Congress that de-listed the animal.

But so far, the appeal has only attracted three groups. Most of the major environmental organizations that advocate for wolves have opted not to pursue the case.

Mike Leahy is with the group Defenders of Wildlife, which has gone to court over wolves in the past. He says even though they received rulings in their favor, environmentalists were losing in the court of public opinion.

"The lawsuits were becoming increasingly controversial just because they had dragged on for so long and we felt that the continuing controversy was deteriorating public support and tolerance over wolves," Leahy says.

Leahy says Defenders of Wildlife has shifted its efforts to working directly with hunters and ranchers affected by wolves.

The Montana-based Alliance for the Wild Rockies is part of the latest lawsuit. The head of that group said he thinks major conservation groups are choosing to protect political alliances over the environment.

On the Web:

Gray Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains:

Defenders of Wildlife:

Alliance for the Wild Rockies:

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