Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower-48 states, a plan that would be disastrous for gray wolf recovery in the United States.
The proposed rule removes federal Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where only about 75 wild wolves remain. The proposal largely relies on scientifically disputed classifications of wolf subspecies, and fails to account for the fact that wolves have yet to recover in many parts of the country, even where excellent wolf habitat still exists.
“Removing federal protections for wolves at this point would be devastating for the recovery of the gray wolf,” said Marjorie Mulhall, associate legislative counsel at Earthjustice. “Wolves are still missing in the vast majority of their former range.”
Last month, six leading conservation groups sent a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, urging her to reverse course on the planned delisting. The letter was signed by the chief executives of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.
“With today’s proposal, the federal government walks away from wolf recovery before the job is done,” said Doug Honnold, an Earthjustice attorney who has fought in court for wolves in the northern Rockies for decades. “The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is charged with ensuring the survival of species and today’s announced proposal is a huge step in the opposite direction.“
One of North America’s most iconic native predators, the gray wolf once lived throughout the United States. But centuries of trapping, hunting, and poisoning devastated the wolf population. By the 1980s, only a few small pockets of survivors remained in the continental United States.
Over the past thirty years wolf recovery in America has had some great successes, from the reintroduction of wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains, to the revitalization of populations in the western Great Lakes states. But wolves have yet to recover in additional parts of the country—including the Pacific Northwest, northern California, the southern Rocky Mountains, and the Northeast—where prime wolf habitat still exists.
Further, the brutal assault on wolves that commenced in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho after wolves in those states lost federal protections highlights the increasingly hostile anti‐wolf policies of states now charged with ensuring the survival of gray wolf populations.
Earthjustice has been instrumental in protecting gray wolves in court for more than two decades and will continue working with its partners and clients to ensure the survival of this ecologically critical species.