Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region will remain on the endangered species list after a unanimous ruling from the Washington, D.C., appellate court.
The back story is this: in 2011, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said that the gray wolf population had recovered enough to remove endangered status and put the states in charge of managing wolves.
In 2014, a U.S. district judge decided that the gray wolf population in Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin—about 3,800 wolves—had not sufficiently recovered from decades of shooting, trapping, and poisoning to warrant being removed from the federal endangered species list, reversing a decision by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials.
The appellate court upheld the district judge’s opinion and ruled that the government acted prematurely in removing gray wolves from the endangered species list.
It also said that Fish and Wildlife had not considered factors such as the loss of the gray wolf’s historical range and how de-listing would affect its recovery in other parts of the country, including New England and North and South Dakota.
Thanks to the decision, hunting and trapping of gray wolves may no longer be permitted in the upper Great Lakes region.
“The second highest court in the nation reaffirmed that we must do much more to recover gray wolves before declaring the mission accomplished,” said Noah Greenwald, the director of the endangered species program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Wolves are still missing from more than 90 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states, and both the Endangered Species Act and common sense tell us we can’t ignore that loss.”
On the other hand, gray wolves’ recovery in other states has led to de-listing in some parts of the country. The same D.C. appellate court that made this ruling, made a separate ruling in March that allowed gray wolves in the state of Wyoming to be de-listed. They were also de-listed in Montana, Idaho, and parts of Washington, Oregon, and Utah, following a very successful reintroduction of the animals into Yellowstone National Park in 1995.