Groups challenge Trump administration’s delisting of gray wolves

The lawsuit claims the United States Fish and Wildlife Service made a decision "based on politics, not science."

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A lawsuit was filed against the Trump administration after they ruled to strip protections for gray wolves in the lower-48 states under the Endangered Species Act except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. Earthjustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Oregon Wild, and the Humane Society of the United States.

The lawsuit claims that “despite the science that concludes wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental U.S.,” the United States Fish and Wildlife Service made a decision “based on politics, not science,” according to a press release.

“Gray wolves are still missing from vast areas of the country,” Bonnie Rice, Endangered Species Campaign Representative at the Sierra Club. “Without Endangered Species protections, wolves just starting to return to places like California and the Pacific Northwest will be extremely vulnerable. Wolves are critical to maintaining the balance of natural systems and we are committed to fighting for their full recovery.”

Gray wolves were first granted protection in 1975 after the animal was almost hunted to extinction. Currently, there are more than 5,000 living in their historic range, which includes recovering populations in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. According to the Sierra Club, “wolves have begun to inhabit Washington, Oregon, and California; and unclaimed wolf habitat remains in states like Maine, Colorado, and Utah.”

With more than 1.8 million Americans submitted opposing the delisting of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act, 86 members of Congress, 100 scientists, 230 businesses, and 367 veterinary professionals have all opposed the move with the submission of opposition letters.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s decision to remove Endangered Species Act protection from gray wolves in the lower-48 states threatens populations just beginning to make a comeback in national parks,” Bart Melton, Wildlife Program Director for the National Parks Conservation Association, said. “After decades of absence, gray wolves are starting to re-inhabit park landscapes in Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado. However, these populations are far from recovered. Rather than working alongside communities to support the return of wolves, the administration unlawfully said, ‘good enough’ and removed ESA protections. We are hopeful the court will reinstate these protections.” 

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