FWS assesses gray wolf delisting under ESA
In September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) shared substantial evidence had been presented to delist the gray wolf population from the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) due to recovery.
These findings initiated a 12-month status review and analysis to determine whether the delisting will be warranted.
Factors affecting gray wolves
In regards to the Endangered Species Act (ESA), there are five factors to be assessed in making a listing determination, including: present or threatened destruction, medication or curtailment of its habitat or range; overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or education purposes; disease or predation; inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; and other natural or man-made factors affecting its continued existence.
Substantial evidence indicates human-caused mortality caused by overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific or education purposes, the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms and new regulations, which may be inadequate to address the potential threat.
“Montana and Idaho include approximately 75 percent of gray wolves in a potential distinct population segment in the western Northern Rocky Mountains ,” said FWS, nodding towards their opinion that these states don’t have legislation to support the wolves.
Petitions against the delisting
With the most recent announcement of the review to delist the gray wolf, several petitions have been filed to protect gray wolves.
The first petition was filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Humane Society of the U.S., Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Sierra Club. The petition requested wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, or entire western U.S., be relisted under ESA.
A threatened listing could preserve federal oversight on gray wolves, as well as provide FWS with regulatory flexibility to manage conflicts over wolves with individual states.
The second petition was filed by Western Watersheds Project, WildEarth Guardians and a coalition of similar organizations, including Wyoming Untrapped and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates. The petition seeks endangered status for gray wolves in several western states, including Wyoming.
Controversy at hand
Kaitlynn Glover, Public Lands Council executive director and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association executive director of natural resources commented, “It is unacceptable for the FWS to continue to be held hostage by groups who want nothing more than to turn the Endangered Species Act into a permanent management tool.”
“It is appropriate for the FWS to continue to monitor state management of these recovered populations, but we urge FWS to dedicate resources to species that are truly imperiled,” Glover said. “We will continue to defend delisting of these clearly-recovered gray wolf populations.”
On the other hand, Native American activists are requesting better communication with agency officials, including President Biden’s promise that under his administration, the U.S. Department of the Interior would listen to and consider comments from the Native American communities it governs.
Tom Rogers, president of Global Indigenous Council, shared, “The number one thing we requested was consultation as directed by the president,” Rodgers said.
Prior to the Biden administration, the Trump administration removed the gray wolf from the list of endangered species in 2020, providing enforcement of management to the states.
A FWS spokesperson shared, “Emergency listing remains on the table, in the case FWS sees circumstances develop that would lead FWS to apply that authority.”
Mexican gray wolf proposals
While there is controversy and opposing opinions surrounding potential delisting, proposals for the management of Mexican gray wolves are also being considered.
In a recent proposed rule, the FWS seeks to amend the existing Experimental, Non-Essential Rule, also known as 10(j) status, to the population of Mexican gray wolves in New Mexico and Arizona.
During a news briefing on Oct. 27, Amy Leuders, Southwest regional director for FWS shared, “Recovering the Mexican wolf remains a top priority for the service, and we continue to make steady progress toward this goal.”
To keep the population growing, FWS wants to remove the population limit, which is capped at 325 animals and place temporary restrictions on ranchers’ ability to kill or capture a wolf threatening livestock.
Proposed changes follow a 2018 court order to revise the designation of the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Project to ensure the experimental population contributes to long term recovery of the wolf.
The possible changes are the result of a 10(j) designation, which allows FWS to designate land for reintroduction of a species for an experimental population. The Blue Range Wolf Recovery Area serves as this purpose.
“We believe these changes to the Mexican wolf 10(j) rule will allow us to recover Mexican wolves more effectively in the wild,” said Leuders.
Brittany Gunn is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.