A federal court in California on Thursday restored endangered species protections for the gray wolf that were rolled back during the Trump administration. 

Judge Jeffrey White, a George W. Bush appointee, determined that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service didn’t adequately consider threats to the wolves outside of two major populations. 

“The Service failed to adequately consider the threats to wolves outside of the core populations in the Great Lakes and Northern Rocky Mountains in delisting the entire species and grants plaintiffs’ motion on this basis,” he wrote. 

The decision listed other reasons that White was tossing the Trump-era move, including his assessment that a decision to analyze West Coast wolves with Northern Rocky Mountain together instead of separately was arbitrary and capricious.

The Trump administration in 2020 removed endangered species protections for the wolves that had been in place for more than 45 years, saying they had exceeded recovery goals. 

Many environmental and animal advocacy groups disagreed, saying they still need protections.

The Biden administration last February defended its predecessor’s decision, saying it was made “using the best scientific and commercial data available.”

But, it later signaled a possible reversal, saying in September that it would review the wolf’s endangered species status.   

It’s not clear whether the Biden administration will appeal the Thursday ruling. When asked whether it would, Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Vanessa Kauffman said via email, “we are reviewing the decision.”

Thursday’s ruling does not apply to wolves in a few states such as Montana and Idaho, where they were already delisted before the Trump action. 

“Today’s ruling is a significant victory for gray wolves and for all those who value nature and the public’s role in protecting these amazing creatures,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Trump-era decision. “Restoring federal protections means that these vitally important animals will receive the necessary support to recover and thrive in the years ahead.”

When the Trump administration removed the wolves from the endangered species list, it largely left their management up to the states.

In a Wisconsin hunt last year, more than 200 wolves, a sizable chunk of the state’s overall population, were killed in a period of a few days.

“Today is a monumental victory for wolves who will now be protected from state-sponsored bloodbaths,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, in a statement.

Some agricultural interests, meanwhile, expressed disappointment in the judge’s decision. 

Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of natural resources for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said in a statement that the Endangered Species Act “should not be used as a permanent management tool.”

“Today’s decision conflicts with the intended purpose of the Act and removes critical management tools for wolves that pose a tremendous threat to farmers and ranchers,” Glover said. 

Updated at 6:23 p.m.

Tags Endangered species Endangered Species Act Gray wolf

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