Today, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling in Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Zinke, et al., reversing a district court decision that had restored Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming. The lawsuit involved a challenge by a coalition of conservation groups to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 2011 decision to strip ESA protections from Wyoming wolves.
In that decision, the Fish and Wildlife Service handed wolf management authority over to the State of Wyoming despite state policies that promote unlimited wolf-killing across more than 80 percent of Wyoming and provide inadequate protections for wolves in the remainder. In today’s ruling, the court determined that the Fish and Wildlife Service properly relied on Wyoming’s non-binding assurances to conclude that the state will manage for a sufficiently large wolf population to protect the species within its borders.
Timothy Preso, Earthjustice’s lead attorney in the case, issued the following statement on behalf of plaintiffs: Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society of the United States, and Fund for Animals.
“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling, which we are still evaluating. Although we disagree with this decision, it highlights that Congress should not step in to block judicial review under the Endangered Species Act, nor to interfere with the science-based listing status of an individual species. We will continue to fight to protect wolves against extreme and hostile state management policies.”