The Trump administration announced the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) roster, saying protection and management of the animals will now be in the hands of state and tribal wildlife management agencies. Progressives called the decision dangerous and vowed to take action against the U.S. Department of Interior’s (USDI) decision.
The department based its decision to remove the gray wolf from the ESA after 45 years based on the scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated, and a proven record of states and tribes’ abilities to continue managing for healthy wolf populations.
Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt made the announcement at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Thursday.
“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” said Secretary Bernhardt.
“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”
Earth Justice an environmental organization said the decision would have legal ramifications.
“Gray wolves are no longer an endangered species in the continental United States likely setting off a flurry of lawsuits by wolf advocates who believe the decision is premature. We’re one of the wolf advocates.”
The Wolf Conservation Center criticized the decision to take Gray Wolves off the endangered species list as dangerous for the wolf population.
“Trump admin. officially ends ESA protections for gray wolves nationwide, save for the Mexican gray wolf. With the announcement, wolves have targets on their backs. History tells us thousands will die at the hands of trophy hunters + state mgmt.”
The Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) also had harsh words about the decision. “Trump’s @USFWS finalized a rule today stripping gray wolves of their federal #EndangeredSpecies protection in the Lower 48 states. This dangerous move threatens ecosystems, ignores indigenous guidance, and contributes to the biodiversity crisis.”
“You cannot have a national wolf recovery without putting forward a national wolf recovery plan,” says Sylvia Fallon, senior director of NRDC’s wildlife division. “This still has not happened, so eliminating federal protections for gray wolves is a huge setback in recovery efforts. Wolves are still missing from much of their remaining habitat in the West and throughout the Northeast.”
In total the federal government estimates, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is currently more than 6,000 wolves, which does not include all gray wolves in the greater United States.
Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group based in Washington issued the following statement Thursday by Jamie Rappaport Clark, the president and CEO:
“Stripping protections for gray wolves is premature and reckless. Gray wolves occupy only a fraction of their former range and need continued federal protection to fully recover. We will be taking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court to defend this iconic species.”
Without ESA protections, Defenders of Wildlife believes states may remove all protections for gray wolves, allowing them to be killed without penalty.
As an example of this type of impact, the Defenders of Wildlife stated that since wolves were removed from federal protection in the Northern Rocky Mountain states in 2011, more than 3,500 wolves have been killed under state management.
Meanwhile, many federal and local lawmakers supported the administration’s decision to remove the federal label and allow local government agencies to manage the once decimated species, including Wisconsin, Utah, Arizona, Washington State, Minnesota, Idaho, South Dakota, Colorado, California, and Nebraska praised the USDI decision.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote, “I’m pleased the Trump administration is listening to guidance from wildlife experts and scientific data and delisting gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act.”
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said, “Multiple states, including Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington already manage healthy and sustainable gray wolf populations. Now, under expanded state management, impacted communities will be able to determine how best to preserve gray wolf populations while protecting other native species and livestock.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said, “This announcement will provide more flexibility and protection to landowners and livestock producers working to make a living.”
Various other farming and recreational organizations applauded the decision.