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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defends gray wolf delisting

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Early this month, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) submitted a letter to environmental groups noting the service may not put the gray wolf back on the endangered species list after it was removed under the Trump administration.

            “Our delisting action recognizes the successful recovery of one of the nation’s most iconic species,” wrote USFWS in the letter, further noting they made the decision using the best scientific and commercial data available.

Delisting the wolf

            According to USFWS, this scientific data shows the 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 Mountain and Western Great Lakes populations.

            In a previous article published in the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna notes Wyoming, Idaho and Montana have successfully demonstrated the ability to manage the ever-increasing delisted wolf population for the past 10 years.

            “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,” says Magagna.

            USFWS points out the Western Great Lakes wolf population in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, which is the largest population outside of 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,” states USFWS. “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.”

            Because of their successful recovery throughout the lower 48, Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced the delisting of the gray wolf from the endangered species list on Oct. 29, 2020.

January’s lawsuit

            USFWS’s letter comes nearly a month after several conservationist groups, including Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, the Center for Biological Diversity, the Sierra Club, the National Parks Conservation Association, Oregon Wild and the Humane Society of the United States, sued the Trump administration for ending gray wolf protections last fall.

            Despite data proving populations have recovered to healthy levels, these groups argue the gray wolf has yet to finish it’s comeback story.

            “This is no ‘mission accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” Kristen Boyles, an attorney with Earthjustice, said in a news release. “Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the southern Rockies and the Northeast.”

Bonnie Rice, endangered species campaign representative at the Sierra Club, comments, “Gray wolves are still missing from vast areas of the country. Without endangered species protections, wolves just starting to return to places like California and the Pacific Northwest will be extremely vulnerable. Wolves are critical to maintaining the balance of natural systems and we are committed to fighting for their full recovery.”

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

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