Court keeps Great Lakes wolves on endangered species list

Bruno Cirelli
Agosto 2, 2017

The judges on the court vacated the decision to delist the gray wolf in Minnesota, Wisconsin and MI - as well as in parts of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and OH - from the Endangered Species Act.

The Wisconsin DNR reported this summer that wolf numbers have reached a record high with anywhere between 925 to 952 wolves in the state.

The government argued that wolves, after almost being hunted to extinction, had fully recovered.

Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region will retain their full US protections, following a unanimous ruling Tuesday by a federal appeals court that said the government acted prematurely when it dropped the animal from the endangered species list. The ruling maintains federal protections for wolves and blocks the states from asserting control and opening up sport hunting and commercial trapping seasons targeting the animals.

The U.S. Interior Department has not yet said whether it will appeal the court's decision. At well over 4,000 wolves, it is abundantly clear that the population in the region is recovered and thriving.

The Humane Society of the United States and a coalition of wildlife protection groups, including Born Free USA, Help Our Wolves Live, and Friends of Animals and Their Environment, brought the lawsuit against the USFWS's premature December 2011 delisting decision.

The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulators "failed to reasonably analyze or consider two significant aspects of the rule - the impacts of partial delisting and of historical range loss on the already listed species".

The state of Minnesota disagrees.

The States of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin and trophy hunting groups participated in the rulemaking process and also in this extensive the litigation in the courts, but they are now seeking assistance from Congress to legislatively remove wolves from the endangered species list.

The state also argued that the increased wolf population has led to more conflicts with people, including killing of livestock. The agency's decision, which was overturned by the D.C. District Court in 2014, threatened the fragile remnants of the gray wolf population by confining current wolf populations to a small pockets of their former range. But the latest attempt to do likewise with Great Lakes wolves fizzled in May when congressional negotiators dropped such a proposal from a spending measure.

In 2011, they were removed from the endangered species list for a third time, before a judge again returned the wolf to federal protection in 2014.

Supporters of wolf delisting - namely livestock and hunting groups and rural lawmakers - say the animals have become too plentiful and are causing trouble.

One bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen.

"There's no question the wolf packs have recovered", said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. A U.S. Senate committee passed a bill last week that includes a provision to prevent further legal challenges to the wolf's status. "They shouldn't be trying to do science from the legislative branch".

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