On Feb. 19, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially reinstated protections under the federal Endangered Species Act for the gray wolf in Wyoming and nearby states after a federal judge in December struck down the agency’s decision to remove protections.
The agency’s actions apply to Wyoming, as well as Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and portions of North and South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
The Fish and Wildlife Service removed federal protections for gray wolves in 2012 and turned over management of the growing populations to the states.
In December, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., ruled that the removal by the agency was “arbitrary and capricious” and violates the Endangered Species Act.
Feb. 19 action by the agency officially reinstates protections for the wolf.
In Wisconsin, the state’s wolf hunting season ended before the judge’s ruling. The most recent wolf hunting and trapping season ended with 154 wolves registered, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
U.S. Representatives Reid Ribble (R-WI) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) introduced H.R 884 to direct the Secretary of the Interior to reissue final rules relating to listing of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
H.R. 884 would simply reinstate two decisions of the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the gray wolf from the Endangered Species List and allow states to continue their successful population management plans. The Endangered Species Act and the ability of the Fish and Wildlife Service to re-list the gray wolf in the case of future population changes are left entirely intact.
“Wisconsin’s gray wolf population has significantly recovered over the last several decades, and I am confident in our state’s ability to manage the population,” Ribble said. “This bipartisan legislative fix will allow the Great Lakes states to continue the effective work they are doing in managing wolf populations without tying the hands of the Fish and Wildlife Service or undermining the Endangered Species Act.”
“When it comes to the gray wolf in Wyoming and the Western Great Lakes, the science speaks for itself—the wolves are recovered and will continue as such under capable state management,” said Lummis. “I am pleased to join Rep. Ribble on this bill to uphold what should be a true conservation victory— the joint efforts of the states and Fish and Wildlife Service to recover the wolf and return management to the states.”
U.S. Representatives Ribble and Lummis are joined by original cosponsors U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek (R-MI), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Sean Duffy (R-WI), Tom Emmer (R- MN), Glenn Grothman (R- WI), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Ron Kind (D-WI), John Kline (R-MN), Paul Ryan (R-WI), James Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), Michael Simpson (R-ID), Tim Walberg (R-MI), and Timothy Walz (D-MN) as original co-sponsors.
Support for reinstatement of the listing came from the usual animal activists groups.
“The court has ruled Wyoming’s kill-on-sight approach to wolf management throughout much of the state must stop,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. “Today’s ruling restores much-needed federal protection to wolves throughout Wyoming, which allowed killing along the borders of Yellowstone National Park and throughout national forest lands south of Jackson Hole where wolves were treated as vermin under state management. If Wyoming wants to resume management of wolves, it must develop a legitimate conservation plan that ensures a vibrant wolf population in the northern Rockies.”
Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in challenging the Fish and Wildlife Service’s September 2012 decision to delist gray wolves in Wyoming. The conservation groups challenged the 2012 decision on grounds that Wyoming law authorized unlimited wolf killing in a “predator” zone that extended throughout most of the state, and provided inadequate protection for wolves even where killing was regulated.
“The decision makes clear that ‘shoot-on-sight’ is not an acceptable management plan for wolves across the majority of the state,” said Dr. Sylvia Fallon, Senior Scientist and Wildlife Conservation Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s time for Wyoming to step back and develop a more sciencebased approach to managing wolves.” — Traci Eatherton,WLJ Editor