Protection for Wolves Reinstated

19 February 2015 | Center for Biological Diversity News Release

WASHINGTON— Following two recent federal court rulings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today officially reinstated Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming and the western Great Lakes, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and surrounding states. In Wyoming the court ruled the state’s protections were not adequate; in the Great Lakes, the court ruled the Fish and Wildlife Service cannot remove protections for a species in part of its range when it has not recovered overall.

“The gray wolf is recovered in less than 10 percent of its historic range and facing continued persecution. The courts got it right: Gray wolves clearly continue to need the protection of the Endangered Species Act,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re glad the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today officially acknowledged gray wolves’ endangered status.”

Endangered species protections for wolves may be short-lived, however, as just last week legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip federal protections from the species. This would not be the first time Congress has flouted law and science to remove gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act. In 2011 a policy rider on a must-pass appropriations bill, similar to the legislation introduced last week, removed protections from gray wolves in Montana, Idaho, eastern Oregon and Washington, and northern Utah. Since then more than 2,000 wolves have been killed in state-sponsored hunts in Montana and Idaho.

“Turning to Congress for a legislative fix fundamentally undermines the Endangered Species Act,” said Greenwald. “Inserting politics into what should be a science-based decision is a dangerous trend that could lead to Congress stepping in every time a species becomes inconvenient to powerful special interests.”

If the Fish and Wildlife Service wants more flexibility in managing wolves, other legal-based solutions are available. On January 27, the Center and its allies filed a petition seeking downlisting of gray wolves from endangered to threatened across the lower 48 states, providing a path for retaining federal protections until wolves can truly be recovered across suitable habitat in their historic range, while simultaneously giving the agency more management flexibility. The agency’s response to the petition is pending.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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