Story at a glance

  • The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday announced the gray wolf will be removed from the Endangered Species Act.
  • The agency determined the wolf is no longer a threatened or endangered species.
  • Many conservationists argue, however, that the move is premature as the wolves have yet to fully recover.

The Trump administration is lifting endangered species protections for the gray wolf, claiming the animal has had a successful recovery after being endangered for more than four decades. 

The U.S. Department of Interior on Thursday announced the gray wolf will be removed from the Endangered Species Act following the agency’s determination the wolf is no longer a threatened or endangered species. Management of the species will now be turned over to individual states, many of which would likely allow hunting of the animal. 


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The gray wolf has been protected under the Endangered Species Act since the 1970s when the wolf population was around 1,000. The wolves were nearly wiped out across the continental U.S. during the 1900s primarily due to loss of habitat and hunting. 

Currently, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000, with more than 4,000 in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin and some 2,000 in the Northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest. Before the push to eradicate the animals in the earlier 1900s, the wolves were present in most parts of the U.S. 

“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,” Interior Secretary David Bernhard said while announcing the news in Minnesota.

“After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery,” Bernhardt said. 

Many conservationists argue, however, that the move is premature as the wolves have yet to fully recover in the majority of their former range across the continental U.S. Several environmental groups plan to challenge the decision in court. 

“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” Kristen Boyles, an attorney for Earthjustice, said in a statement.

“Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court.” 

Other environmentalists accused the Trump administration of gutting protections in a last-ditch effort for votes in the Midwest just days before the presidential election. 

“Wolves will be shot and killed because Donald Trump is desperate to gin up his voters in the Midwest,” Brett Hartl, chief political strategist at the Center for Biological Diversity Action Fund, said. 

“Secretary Bernhardt’s nakedly political theater announcing the end to wolf protections in a battleground state days before the election shows just how corrupt and self-serving the Trump administration is.”

All gray wolves in the lower 48 states except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico have been removed.


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Published on Oct 29, 2020