Feds Delist Gray Wolf, Return Management to States

Federal officials are removing the gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protection in the Lower 48 states, according to reports, and returning management to states.

Feds Delist Gray Wolf, Return Management to States

Federal officials are removing the gray wolf from Endangered Species Act protection in the Lower 48 states and returning management to states.

U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced a new rule Oct. 29 near Minneapolis about that removs protections for the gray wolf. The species was first protected in 1967 under a ruling that predated the Endangered Species Act. Currently, the wolves are supervised by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of Interior.

The USFWS said it based its final determination "on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted. This analysis includes the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States."

“Today’s action reflects the Trump Administration’s continued commitment to species conservation based on the parameters of the law and the best scientific and commercial data available,” Bernhardt said in a statement. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law.”

The USFWS said the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, "greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations."

Wolf management will be handled by state wildlife agencies. The agencies could continue with existing or modified protections, or allow hunting and trapping as part of a managment strategy. The Duluth News Tribune said the plan will delist the wolves throughout the Lower 48 states even where the wolves do not exist. The Trump Administration announced in 2018 its intent to make the change, and formally introduced plans in spring 2019.

The rule will be published in the Federal Register, as required, and take effect 60 days later.

"As a leader in the first successful delisting of the gray wolf 10 years ago, we welcome this decision and hope it brings closure and celebration to the restoration of the wolf in the lower 48 states," Boone and Crockett Club President Tim Brady said in a press release. "The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover imperiled species so they no longer require the protections offered by the Act, and the gray wolf is a good example of how a species can be recovered."

Gray wolves have sparked controversy for the more than 50 years they have been protected, with pro- and anti-wolf sides battling publicly and in courts. One continuing issue is the definition and status of the terms "recovered" and "habitat."

As Roll Call noted in this report, "In July, the Interior and Commerce departments moved to redefine the term "habitat" under the ESA to exclude certain areas the protected species does not occupy but are likely needed for their recovery in the future. Those areas have long been interpreted by federal agencies as covered under the law, and they are likely to be vital territory to aid species in their recovery as the climate warms, legal experts say."


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