The U.S. government ruled wolves in Wyoming should be removed from the Endangered Species Act and management of the apex predator be turned over to the state, Reuters reports. The decision, which came late last week, could re-open the door for wolf hunting in Wyoming.
“It’s great news. It’s especially great news for the state of Wyoming,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) president and CEO, according to Fox31 in Denver. “States should have the ability to manage all wildlife within their borders. This is a great day for the fundamental issue of state-based management of wildlife.”
The overturned decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia came from finding the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) “exercised its judgment in a reasonable way” in concluding Wyoming’s management plan would provide sufficient protections for the wolf population.
“The record demonstrates that the Service reasonably and adequately responded to concerns about the reliability of Wyoming’s management plan,” the court said in the opinion, according to Reuters.
Wyoming Governor Matt Mead released a written statement, saying the decision “is the right decision for wolves and for Wyoming,” Reuters reports.
Wyoming wolves had been under federal protection since September 2014, U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson argued “Wyoming’s management plan afforded insufficient protection for wolves.” The 2014 ruling came after Wyoming’s wolves were delisted in 2012.
The new ruling sided with the USFWS, state of Wyoming, RMEF and others. It was the same groups fighting back in 2012, when U.S. wildlife managements determined wolves in Wyoming had rebounded from the threat of extinction. Reuters reports that shortly afterward conservation groups responded with lawsuits. They said the USFWS acted in an arbitrary and unlawful way in finding Wyoming’s plan acceptable. That led to the overturned decision in 2014.
Anti-hunting organizations were adamant about reviewing the ruling and continuing the fight against the hunting of wolves in Wyoming.
“We’re going to continue to fight to protect wolves from hostile and extreme state management policies where they exist,” Tim Preso, attorney for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, told Reuters.
Wolves first received protection in the 1970s after they were extirpated from the lower 48. The first re-introduction wasn’t until the mid-1990s. Ranchers and sportsmen raised objection out of fear for live stock and game animals being killed by the growing wolf population.