Feds decline to reclassify gray wolf under Endangered Species Act

Feds decline to reclassify gray wolf under Endangered Species Act
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The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said Tuesday that it will not reclassify the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. 

Conservation groups led by the Humane Society had pushed the service to reclassify the wolf from endangered to threatened species status, which comes with fewer federal protections. 

Some members of Congress have pushed legislation to declassify the wolf altogether, warning that the animal threatens ranching operations. The conservation groups had hoped reclassification would discourage Congress from removing those protections.

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The wolf is classified as endangered throughout its habitat in the lower 48 states, except for Minnesota, where it’s listed as threatened, and in Montana, Idaho, Washington and parts of Oregon, where there are no Endangered Species Act protections, according to the Humane Society. 

In January, when the Humane Society released its petition, Wayne Pacelle, the group’s president and CEO, said some states had done a poor job protecting their wolf populations.

“We do, however, understand the fears that some ranchers have about wolves, and we believe that maintaining federal protections while allowing more active management of human-wolf conflicts achieves the right balance for all key stakeholders and is consistent with the law,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Fish and Wildlife Service said the groups’ petition “does not present substantial information indicating that reclassification may be warranted.”

The agency said its review of the petition “failed to provide substantial information indicating these wolves may meet the definition of a threatened species, specifically are likely to be in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of their range.”

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who had led Democrats on a March letter to the Interior Department urging them to consider the petition, said the agency's decision is "scientifically unsound and delusional."

"Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is Einstein’s definition of insanity, and conservation groups are within their rights to take FWS to court for refusing yet again to complete gray wolf recovery efforts," he said. "The agency will have no one but itself to blame.”

—This post was updated at 7:30 p.m.