Gray wolves regain Endangered Species Act protection

After 45 years of protection under the Endangered Species Act, the federal court ruling "restored wolf protections in the Great Lakes region, West Coast states and southern Rocky Mountains."

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After the Trump administration delisted the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act in 2020, a federal district court struck down the decision and restored federal protections. The ruling prohibits wolf hunting and trapping in 44 states outside of the northern Rocky Mountains.

Forty-five years of protection was reinstated in a 26-page ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffery White.

“The Service’s analysis relied on two core wolf populations to delist wolves nationally and failed to provide a reasonable interpretation of the ‘significant portion of its range’ standard,” White wrote.

After 45 years of protection under the Endangered Species Act, the federal court ruling “restored wolf protections in the Great Lakes region, West Coast states and southern Rocky Mountains,” according to the Center of Biological Diversity.

While the Biden administration defended the delisting decision, the court’s ruling was hailed a “win” by the Center for Biological Diversity after a lawsuit brought by Earthjustice on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association and Oregon Wild in January 2021.

“This is a huge win for gray wolves and the many people across the country who care so deeply about them,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “I hope this ruling finally convinces the Fish and Wildlife Service to abandon its longstanding, misguided efforts to remove federal wolf protections. The agency should work instead to restore these ecologically important top carnivores to places like the southern Rockies and northeastern United States.”

The ruling doesn’t restore gray wolves protection in the northern Rockies, which was a region that lost its protection before the delisting rule was taken up in court.

“Again and again, we’ve had to take the fight for wolves to the courts,” Adkins said. “I’m relieved that the court set things right but saddened that hundreds of wolves suffered and died under this illegal delisting rule. It will take years to undo the damage done to wolf populations.”

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