Last Thursday, a federal judge restored protections for gray wolves across the United States. In a ruling, the judge concluded that the Trump administration failed to consider ongoing threats when stripping the species of its protection. The ruling comes over a year after the Trump administration removed the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act in 2020.
Andrea Zaccardi, a lawyer representing the Center for Biological Diversity, welcomed the ruling. “This is a huge day for wolves across the country,” said Zaccardi. “Fish and Wildlife Service has tried to remove federal protections several times over the past decade, and every time they skirt the law in doing it.”
The ruling now restores protections for gray wolves in 44 states. The Endangered Species Act limits those states from managing local gray wolf populations through hunting and trapping. However, the relisting will not affect wolves in the Northern Rockies. Montana, Wyoming and Idaho were removed from the ESA in 2011 and are not subject to the laws. The three states have since loosened hunting laws to reduce wolf populations.
Over the past year, the gray wolves’ delisting from ESA has had detrimental effects. In July 2021, over a third of gray wolves in Montana were killed, according to a University of Wisconsin-Madison study. An estimated 313 to 323 wolves were likely killed by humans between April 2020 and April 2021.
Following the ruling, Bonnie Rice, a senior representative of the Sierra Club, said that wolves now have a chance to recover. “Today’s ruling restoring much-needed federal protections means that wolves will have a chance to fully recover and carry out their important ecological and cultural roles across the country,” Rice said in a statement.
While the Fish and Wildlife Service could attempt to fight the ruling, the Biden administration’s interior secretary Deb Haaland seems sympathetic to the gray wolf cause. “We will reinstate federal protections under the ESA for the northern Rocky Mountains’ gray wolf, if necessary,” she wrote in a USA Today op-ed.
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