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Gray wolves delisted

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

After 45 years on the Endangered Species Act (ESA) list, the Trump administration, in collaboration with its many conservation partners, announced the successful recovery of the gray wolf population in the contiguous 48 states and the delisting of the species from the ESA. 

On Oct. 29, Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt made the announcement at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge outside of Minneapolis, Minn. 

During the event, Bernhardt announced state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for the management and protection of the gray wolf in states with active populations. He also noted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will monitor the species for five years to ensure their continued success. 

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

“This announcement simply reflects the determination that this species is neither a threatened nor endangered species based on the specific factors Congress has laid out in the law,” he continued.  

 A recovered population

According to USFWS, the gray wolf population in the contiguous 48 states includes more than 6,000 wolves, a number greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for both the Northern Rocky Mountains and the Western Great Lakes populations. 

“By the early part of the 20th century, the gray wolf had become scarce across almost the entire landscape of the lower 48 states. But, the dedicated efforts of partners including states, tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners working together under the auspices of the ESA, brought this great predator back to healthy, stable numbers,” explained USFWS. 

Now, gray wolves in the United States exist primarily as two large, genetically diverse, stable populations broadly distributed across several states, with an additional population in Alaska.

USFWS noted the Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolf population, which extends across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, was previously delisted, and these states have continued effectively managing the population.

“For over 10 years the state of Wyoming, together with our sister states of Idaho and Montana, have demonstrated the ability to manage an ever-increasing delisted wolf population,” stated Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna. “Wyoming accomplished this with a steady hand despite periodic re-listings mandated by the courts. State management succeeds in large part because state management plans are developed in close collaboration with local, directly affected interests.”

 According to USFWS, “The Western Great Lakes wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the largest outside Alaska, is also strong and stable. These states have been key partners in wolf recovery efforts and have made a commitment to continue their activities. The states of Washington, Oregon, California and Colorado are also committed to conserving wolves, as demonstrated by their development of management plans and laws protecting wolves.” 

Delisting the species

USFWS explained they made their final determination to delist the gray wolf using the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated and the ongoing commitment of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy populations once they are delisted. 

USFWS also noted the gray wolf population is the latest in a long list of recoveries including the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 48 other species of plants and animals in the U.S. 

“No administration in history has recovered more imperiled species in their first term than the Trump administration, which has recovered 13 species in addition to the gray wolf since 2017,” stated USFWS. 

“President Trump’s administration has focused on proactive measures, including partnerships with organizations, to ensure listed species flourish to the point of recovery,” said USFWS Director Aurelia Skipwith. “This is a win for the gray wolf and the American people.” 

Importance of the ESA

Kaitlynn Glover, executive director of the Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association noted the announcement proves the importance and effectiveness of the ESA. 

“This is an example of the way the ESA can be used to recover a species and then return it to state management. This is important because so often we talk about the ESA as something that is punishing, burdensome or inefficient,” she stated. “However, this delisting teaches us there is an opportunity to improve the act to know when recovery efforts are successful, and like in the case of the gray wolf, to remove those federal protections so USFWS can turn its attention to other truly imperiled species.” 

“We commend the USFWS for this nationwide delisting that is long overdue. Successful delisting of this high-profile species will serve to incentivize diverse partnerships that can expedite the recovery of many other listed or imperiled species,” stated Magagna.

Hannah Bugas is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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