The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), an agency within the Department of Interior (DOI) has determined gray wolf populations in the lower 48 states have recovered from their near extirpation and are thriving, allowing them to be safely removed from the Endangered Species List. FWS’s delisting action puts states in charge of wolf population management in across the Rocky Mountains and in Western Great lake states.
FWS delisting does not include the experimental Mexican wolf population introduced in recent years in Southwestern states
The gray wolf’s recovery reflects the Trump administration’s ongoing dedication to helping species recover, said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, at a press event at the Minnesota Valley Nation Wildlife Refuge, where announced the delisting.
“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 Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery.”
‘Remarkable Recovery Success’
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said its decision to remove federal protections from grey wolves was based solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats to wolf populations and how they have been alleviated, and states’ abilities to ensure wolf numbers don’t decline to the extent they would become threatened or endangered again, necessitating renewed federal protection.
Currently, approximately 6,000 gray wolves roam the United States, mostly in the northern states from the Great Lakes to eastern Washington.
“This remarkable recovery success has been achieved as a result of more than 45 years of collaboration and partnerships with states, tribes, conservation organizations, private landowners, and other federal partners,” FWS’s press release said. “Many of our state and tribal partners in areas where the wolf is already delisted continue to demonstrate their ability to effectively manage their wolf populations.”
Trump Administration Sets Recovery Record
The gray wolf is the 14th species delisted under during nearly four years of Trump’s presidency. The administration also downlisted an additional six species from endangered to threatened status.
FWS’s press release pointed out no administration in history has recovered more threatened or endangered species in their first term than the Trump Administration.
“Since 2017, thirteen species – and now the gray wolf – have been determined to not be either a threatened species or endangered species under the [1973 Endangered Species Act’s] (ESA) List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and another seven species have been downlisted from endangered species to threatened species,” says FWS. “To provide context for this in looking at other administrations in their first term, the Obama Administration recovered six species; the Bush Administration recovered eight species; and the Clinton Administration recovered nine species.”
“President Trump’s Administration has focused on proactive measures, including partnerships with organizations, to ensure listed species flourish to the point of recovery,” said Aurelia Skipwith, director of the FWS. “Today is a win for the gray wolf and the American people.
“I am grateful for these partnerships with States and Tribes and their commitment to sustainable management of wolves that will ensure the species long-term survival following this delisting,” Skipwith said.
Previous Delisting Efforts
FWS had tried to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list multiple times in the past, pointing out wolf populations had, for more than a decade, exceeded the agency’s recovery goals, and saying states had presented plans demonstrating their ability and dedication to ensuring wolf population numbers remained at healthy levels.
However, environmental groups had stymied each of these previous efforts to remove gray wolves from the federal endangered species list, having successfully sued in federal courts to overturn the delistings. They repeatedly convinced federal judges FWS had not done enough to ensure wolf populations would not fall sharply under state management absent continued federal protection.
In response, Congress intervened, passing a law upholding FWS’s deslisting decision removing ESA protections from gray wolf populations in the Northern Rocky Mountain states, excepting Wyoming, in 2011. FWS’s action removes federal oversight of gray wolf populations in the remaining Western states and the Western Great Lake states, where they have long-established healthy populations.
States Say They are Ready to Manage Wolves
The gray wolf delisting is overdue and will benefit landowners and livestock, said Kristi Noem, Governor of South Dakota in a statement.
“Thanks to the Trump administration’s leadership, management of gray wolves can now return to the states, where it belongs,” said Noem. “This announcement will provide more flexibility and protection to landowners and livestock producers working to make a living.”
State directed wolf management will also allow greater flexibility to maintain healthy populations of prey species, like deer and elk, pursued by licensed hunters and wolves alike, said U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN) in a statement.
“In northern Minnesota, proper management of the gray wolf is important to maintaining our way of life,” said Stauber. “Therefore, I applaud President Trump, Secretary Bernhardt, and Director Skipwith for listening to sound science and rightfully delisting the gray wolf in the lower 48 states.
“With Minnesota’s whitetail firearm season so close, this announcement could not have come at a better time, as empowering state agencies to responsibly manage the gray wolf will help to conserve our deer herd for generations while putting cattle farmers at ease,” Stauber said.
Utah is ready and willing to take over gray wolf management within its borders, said
Brian Steed, executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, in a statement.
“The State of Utah applauds the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act,” said Steed. “States are often best positioned to appropriately manage wildlife populations.
“With the number of wolves growing across the West, we believe it is time to allow the states to take the helm,” Steed said. “Utah has shown great success in growing and maintaining wildlife populations statewide, and we anticipate similar success in managing wolf populations.”
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.(firstname.lastname@example.org)is the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
Governor Kristi Noem (SD): https://governor.sd.gov/; https://iqconnect.lmhostediq.com/iqextranet/EForm.aspx?__cid=FSL_SD_GOV&__fid=2100060