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Wolf Protections Restored Across Most of the U.S.

Gray wolves are back on a path to recovery. On Feb. 10, a federal court restored sweeping Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in 44 states, ruling that the Trump administration broke the law when it removed them from the endangered species list.

Earthjustice represented conservation groups in a successful legal challenge to the delisting and the slaughter of hundreds of wolves that followed. We have fought for wolf recovery for over three decades, and will continue to protect this essential keystone species’ right to survival.

What Just Happened: A court found that the Trump administration violated the law when it removed federal protections from wolves across the U.S.

  • In 2020, the Trump administration made a deadly decision to delist wolves, based on a limited and scientifically inadequate assessment of the species’ recovery.
  • A massacre immediately followed: In February 2021, Wisconsin held a massive wolf hunt that led to more than 200 wolves being brutally slaughtered over three days.
  • On behalf of six environmental groups, Earthjustice sued the government for failing to protect wolves, arguing that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service illegally evaluated only the health of wolf populations in the Midwest, and even did that review badly.

Why It Matters: When gray wolves are healthy, whole ecosystems thrive.

  • Before wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act, they were hunted nearly to extinction. Barely a thousand were left in the lower 48 states, all in an isolated part of the Great Lakes.
  • Once the government began protecting wolves and reintroducing them to key parts of their former habitat, wolf populations began to recover.
  • Wolf recovery supports a balanced ecosystem. In Yellowstone, for example, wolves help regulate elk populations, giving overgrazed vegetation a chance to grow back. With the healthier plants come healthier birds, insects, fish, and mammals.

What Happens Next: We will not rest until all wolves — and all endangered species — are able to thrive.

  • “Wolves need federal protection, period,” says Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles. “The Fish and Wildlife Service should be ashamed of defending the gray wolf delisting, and it should take immediate action to restore Endangered Species Act protections to all gray wolves, including those in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.”
  • We are also fighting to defend the Endangered Species Act, our most critical legal tool for restoring plants and animals at risk of extinction, from special interest groups that want to weaken it.
A wolf at Yellowstone National Park.

A wolf at Yellowstone National Park.

Jacob W. Frank / National Park Service