Federal Judge Reinstates Federal Protections for Wyoming Wolves!
By Maggie Howell, Wolf Conservation Center.
Federal protections for gray wolves in Wyoming were reinstated today after a judge invalidated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) 2012 statewide Endangered Species Act delisting of the species. The ruling from the U.S. District Court halts the management of wolves by Wyoming, a state with a history of hostile and extreme anti-wolf policies.
On August 31, 2012 the USFWS officially stripped federal protections from Wyoming’s wolves and handed management over to the state, a controversial decision, and contradiction of the agency’s stance in the past. Although USFWS had previously criticized Wyoming’s state wolf plan on the grounds that unregulated shooting in most of the state would reduce the state’s wolf population below federally required levels, the agency took a significantly altered position, announcing that these wolves no longer warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The following day, management was handed over to the state and Wyoming’s inaugural wolf hunt commenced.
On November 13th, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), and the Sierra Club, all represented by Earthjustice — officially filed suit in federal district court in the District of Columbia asking “the court to declare this rule illegal, and put wolves back on the endangered species list until Wyoming adopts a responsible management plan that ensures the continued survival and recovery of wolves in the region.”
Almost two years later, Wyoming wolves receive a reprieve!
“The court has ruled and Wyoming’s kill-on-sight approach to wolf management throughout much of the state must stop,” said Earthjustice attorney Tim Preso. “Today’s ruling restores much-needed federal protection to wolves throughout Wyoming, which allowed killing along the borders of Yellowstone National Park and throughout national forest lands south of Jackson Hole where wolves were treated as vermin under state management. If Wyoming wants to resume management of wolves, it must develop a legitimate conservation plan that ensures a vibrant wolf population in the northern Rockies.”
Unfortunately, this decision won’t bring back the wolves that have been killed. Since the delisting in 2012, 219 wolves have been killed under Wyoming’s management.
USFWS is poised to remove Endangered Species Act protection for nearly all gray wolves across the United States, a proposal that the Wolf Conservation Center strongly opposes; a final decision could be made later this year.