Energy & Environment

Gray wolf may be relisted as endangered after Trump removed protections

Portrait of a grey wolf

The Interior Department will review the Endangered Species Act status of the American gray wolf after the Trump administration delisted it as endangered, the department announced Wednesday night.

In a statement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said it received two petitions in June and July, both of them requesting the relisting of gray wolves. The petitions “present substantial, credible information indicating that a listing action may be warranted,” which prompted the review, according to the FWS.

The petitions concern specific geographical populations of wolves, with the first listing those in the northern Rocky Mountains.

“The Service finds the petitioners present substantial information that potential increases in human-caused mortality may pose a threat to the gray wolf in the western U.S.,” the FWS added. “The Service also finds that new regulatory mechanisms in Idaho and Montana may be inadequate to address this threat. Therefore, the Service finds that gray wolves in the western U.S. may warrant listing.”

Several environmental groups, including EarthJustice and the Center for Biological Diversity, sued the Trump administration for delisting the wolves last year, prompting a letter in February in which the FWS defended the decision.

“Our delisting action recognizes the successful recovery of one of the most iconic species,” FWS wrote at the time. The wolves had been on the list for nearly five decades before their delisting. After at one point falling to around 1,000 wolves, the population has since rebounded to some 6,000.

“I’m hopeful that wolves will eventually get the protection they deserve, but the Fish and Wildlife Service should have stopped the wolf-killing now,” Andrea Zaccardi, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “Anti-wolf policies in Idaho and Montana could wipe out wolves and erase decades of wolf recovery. We’re glad that federal officials have started a review, but wolves are under the gun now so they need protection right away.”

Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), the top Republican on the House Natural Resources Committee, blasted the decision in a statement Thursday morning, calling it the work of “radical special interest groups.”

“Forcing agencies to conduct meaningless reviews to examine recovered species is not accomplishing any long-term goals when state wildlife experts are already managing and caring for species local to their communities,” Westerman added. 

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