The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized a rule today that removes protection from gray wolves in the lower 48 states, except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The USFWS made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental United States.
In July, WAN reported that almost two million Americans opposed the Trump administration’s plan to remove Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves. The number of comments submitted were the highest ever recorded on a federal decision involving endangered species, yet the administration still chose to move forward with this disastrous plan.
Even the scientific peer reviews written at the behest of the USFWS state that the agency’s proposal contained numerous errors and appeared to come to a predetermined conclusion, not even supported by its own science.
While there were once hundreds of thousands of wolves in the lower 48 states, now there are only an estimated 5,500 currently living in the continental United States; a fraction of the species’ historic population.
“Wolves are too imperiled and ecologically important to be cruelly trapped and gunned down for sport,” Collette Adkins, Carnivore Conservation Director at the Center for Biological Diversity told WAN. “The Interior Department is catering to trophy hunters, the livestock industry, and other special interests that want to kill wolves. We’ll do everything we can to stop it.”
“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” said Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice in a statement. “Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court.”
“We should be putting much more effort into coexistence with wolves, working to ensure that populations in the lower 48 are thriving and are able to play out their ecological role balancing our natural systems, instead of stripping critical protections still needed for their full recovery,” said Bonnie Rice, Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club. “The science is clear that to protect our communities and prevent future pandemics, we need to be doing more to protect nature and wildlife, not less.”