A Trump administration rule change left gray wolves throughout the United States without protection. Environmental and wildlife advocacy groups have been fighting this rule change in court as it lingered under the current administration.
On February 10, US District Judge Jeffrey White restored protection to wolves, prohibiting trapping and hunting of the canids outside of the northern Rocky Mountain region. The Center for Biological Diversity is calling this a victory for wolves and for the plaintiffs.
“This is a huge win for gray wolves and the many people across the country who care so deeply about them,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“I hope this ruling finally convinces the Fish and Wildlife Service to abandon its longstanding, misguided efforts to remove federal wolf protections. The agency should work instead to restore these ecologically important top carnivores to places like the southern Rockies and northeastern United States.”
In his 26-page ruling, Judge White wrote that the Service’s analysis relied on two core wolf populations to delist wolves nationally and failed to provide a reasonable interpretation of the ‘significant portion of its range’ standard.
For these reasons, he set aside the delisting of wolves from the Endangered Species Act, restoring protections to gray wolves across regions of the Great Lakes, West Coast, and the southern Rocky Mountains.
“Again and again, we’ve had to take the fight for wolves to the courts,” said Adkins. “I’m relieved that the court set things right but saddened that hundreds of wolves suffered and died under this illegal delisting rule. It will take years to undo the damage done to wolf populations.”
Under the rule change, wolves in the northern Rocky Mountain states of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming aren’t protected. However, concern over new laws enacted in Montana and Idaho that would lead to decimation of local wolves have caused the US Fish & Wildlife Service to determine that protection might be warranted.