BREAKING: Gray Wolves Re-Listed as Endangered Following Huge Lawsuit by 18 Environmental Orgs - EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

BREAKING: Gray Wolves Re-Listed as Endangered Following Huge Lawsuit by 18 Environmental Orgs

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau)— Washington D.C. —  Days ahead of the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump’s Interior Department (DOI/Interior) under Secretary David Bernhardt made an announcement that sent shockwaves through the environmental movement: gray wolves (Canis lupus) were to be stripped of their protections under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the lower-48 states. At the time, conservation groups called foul, saying the Interior’s move was nothing more than a “ploy for Midwest votes.”

“The November 2020 delisting decision was a huge gut punch for WildEarth Guardians (Guardians/WEG) and all the wolf advocates that have been working for decades in support of wolf recovery across the West,” Lindsay Larris told EnviroNews today. Larris is the Wildlife Program Director for Guardians. “We had hoped that the Biden Administration was going to simply reserve that decision on its own but, when the Administration just dug in on defending Trump’s scientifically unsupported rule that was clearly pandering to his base (the rule dropped a few days before the election), we knew the legal challenge was where we needed to focus.”

The “legal challenge” Larris is referring to is one filed a few days before Trump left office by a hefty coalition of NGOs including some of the most formidable environmental organizations in the country. The lawsuit was filed against the Interior and its underlying agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS/the Service), for what the group said was an “arbitrary and capricious” delisting decision, lacking scientific merit. On February 10, 2022, that lawsuit paid off as Judge Jeffrey S. White of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, forcing Canis lupus back onto the endangered list once again.

“The Service did not adequately consider threats to wolves outside of these core populations,” Judge White wrote in his ruling. “Instead, the Service avoids analyzing these wolves by concluding, with little explanation or analysis, that wolves outside of the core populations are not necessary to the recovery of the species… In so concluding, the Service avoided assessing the impact of delisting on these wolves.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit were: WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Cascadia Wildlands, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC), The Lands Council, Wildlands Network, Klamath Forest Alliance, and the Kettle Range Conservation Group, represented by the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC).

Gray Wolf — Photo: Wikimedia Commons — By: By Bert de Tilly

A second group of plaintiffs represented by Earthjustice was also merged into the case. Those parties included: Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, National Parks Conservation Association, Oregon Wild and the Humane Society of the United States. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) represented itself and was also part of the case.

The ruling comes with a caveat though: wolves will remain delisted in several states where protections had previously been carved out by Congress. Those states include: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and parts of Oregon and Washington.

“We’ll be watching to see what Interior decides in its 12-month finding, as this is the “final agency action” on the matter,” Erik Molvar, Executive Director of Western Watershed Project,” told EnviroNews. “Hopefully, they will do the right thing, based on the science, and protect the wolves, so we don’t need another legal intervention.”

“This ruling is a huge win for wolves in states like California, Oregon, and Utah where they have yet to achieve stable, robust populations,” Molvar continued in the joint press release published by the coalition. “We are relieved to have staved off premature delisting with this case, but there is still a huge amount of work ahead to protect wolves in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming where they face some of their biggest threats.”

Gray Wolf (Canis lupus)

The “12-month finding” Molvar is referencing is a review that was launched last fall by USFWS “to determine, guided by science and the law, whether reinstating ESA protections is warranted,” according to Deb Haaland, who wrote as much in a scathing opinion piece published in USA Today on Feb. 7. In her statement, Haaland wrote about the need to protect wolves from irresponsible state laws and management strategies and warned that the “Fish and Wildlife Service can immediately list the species for 240 days” in an “emergency” situation.

EnviroNews spoke with Department of the Interior Communications Director Melissa Schwartz, and asked if the USFWS would appeal the ruling in light of the strong statements made by Secretary Haaland just three days ago. In response, Schwartz simply said, “We are reviewing the decision.” When pressed further for more detail, Schwarts balked, saying, “That is our comment for today.”

Wolves have been living under increasing threats ever since the Nov. 2020 delisting announcement. Shortly thereafter, western states such as Idaho and Montana began to pass laws lifting restrictions on previously-banned hunting techniques and increasing the bag limit for hunters. Montana’s newly-elected Governor Greg Gianforte, while embroiled in an illegal wolf-trapping scandal himself, signed multiple wolf-killing bills into law, including one that removed the quota for killing wolves that wander out of Yellowstone National Park. That move resulted in the entire Phantom Lake Pack — a family of over 20 wolves — being wiped out by hunters who eagerly awaited their exit from the Park.

“In light of the brutal slaughter of wolves happening across the northern Rockies, this decision provides some much needed inspiration and hope to advocates across the country,” Larris assured EnviroNews.

The states the were carved out, received their exemption by way of a “sneaky” budget rider back in 2011, implemented by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT) and Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID). To the dismay of wildlife advocates at the time, Matthew Koehler of Guardians reminded EnviroNews that “the rider also expressly closed the courthouse doors by mandating there could be [no] judicial review of the rider.”

Larris was questioned further regarding what WildEarth Guardians intends to do about the excluded states. To that, Larris told EnviroNews this:

We, unfortunately, do not have a lot of legal options at our disposal to challenge state-management rules in Montana, Wyoming or Idaho. Legal challenges to the rider were exhausted years ago and, while many groups have tried to brainstorm how to attack the rules in state-court, we don’t see any viable litigation hooks. That is why there has been a huge amount of energy focused on urging Secretary Haaland, [USFWS Director] Martha Williams, [President] Biden and other agency officials at USFWS and DOI to re-list wolves in the northern Rockies. We have been working with other groups to collect relevant information about state practices and kill-stats to present to DOI in support of re-listing while also getting members of Congress to urge Secretary Haaland to take action.  There have been large communications efforts by Guardians and other groups in order to daylight what is happening on the ground in Montana and Idaho and using the horrific statistics of wolf kills over the past few months to demonstrate why it is necessary for this population to be re-listed and under USFWS management.


Deb Haaland Makes Big Statement on Wolves, Warns Red States: ‘USFWS can immediately list the species for 240 days’ – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) – Amidst continuing controversy in the way gray wolf ( Canis lupus) populations are being managed by red states, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland has issued a scathing statement on the embattled species.

MT Gov. Greg Gianforte Illegally Trapped, Killed a Yellowstone Wolf; Now He’s Signing Wolf-Harvesting Bills into Law – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

(EnviroNews Montana) – Helena, Montana – Montana Governor Greg Gianforte (R) violated Montana state regulations when he trapped and killed wolf “1155” in February near Yellowstone National Park. Gianforte killed the collared gray wolf ( Canis lupus) about 10 miles north of the park.

Breaking: Trump Admin Just Stripped Gray Wolves of Endangered Species Act Protection Across Lower 48 States – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

( EnviroNews Nature ) – Bloomington, Minnesota – In 1978, the gray wolf was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in every state in the contiguous U.S. except Minnesota, where it was listed as threatened. Since then, farmers, ranchers, Sen.

Trump Admin Sued Bigly by 17 Wildlife Orgs for Stripping Gray Wolves of Endangered Status – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

(EnviroNews Nature) – On Jan. 14, 2021, a coalition of nine conservation organizations represented by the Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for its decision to “prematurely” strip the gray wolf ( Canis lupus) of protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the Lower 48 states.

Debacle: How a Kansas Group Forced a Wolf Hunt in Wisconsin That Turned into a ‘Bloodbath’; 97 Wolves Killed over the Limit – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

(EnviroNews Nature) – One-fifth of Wisconsin’s gray wolf ( Canis lupus) population is dead after hunters and trappers slaughtered more than 200 animals in a three-day, sanctioned trophy binge. Official numbers reported by Wisconsin’s Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) show the “harvest” exceeded quota numbers in every zone, resulting in almost twice the number of wolf-kills as was sanctioned.

Wyoming Wolves Stripped of Endangered Species Act Protection – Shoot-on-Sight Policy Restored – EnviroNews | The Environmental News Specialists

(EnviroNews Wyoming) – Gray wolves ( Canis lupus) will no longer be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the state of Wyoming. That was the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, on March 3, 2017, which also happened to be World Wildlife Day.

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