Courts restore federal protection to wolves in all Lower 48
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2008:
WASHINGTON D.C.–Wolves are again a federally protected
species throughout the U.S., after U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman
ruled in Washington D.C. on September 29, 2008 that the U.S. Fish &
Wildlife Service improperly removed wolves in Michigan, Minnesota,
and Wisconsin from the endangered species list in 2007.
Anticipating the similar verdict in a pending case in
Missoula, Montana, the Fish & Wildlife Service on September 22,
2008 asked U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy to return the estimated
1,455 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains to Endangered Species
Both cases were filed by a coalition of environmental and
animal protection organizations including Defenders of Wildlife and
the Humane Society of the U.S.
Extirpated from the continental U.S. by 1945, wolves outside
of Alaska were placed on the U.S. endangered species list in 1974.
Wolves migrating from Canada recolonized parts of Michigan,
Minnesota, and Wisconsin in the 1980s and 1990s without formal
“Surveys this year turned up 2,921 wolves in Minne-sota,
at least 537 in Wiscon-sin, and 520 in Michigan,” said Associated
Press environmental writer John Fleshler.
“The biggest practical effect of Friedman’s ruling,”
Fleshler assessed, “is to nullify newly established state policies
allowing people in the Great Lakes area to kill wolves attacking
livestock or pets. It also bars the states from permitting hunting
or trapping of wolves, although none had done so.”
However, recalled Lee Bergquist of the Milwaukee
Journal-Sentinel, “With strong support from hunting and farming
organizations, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said in
August 2008 that it might initiate the first public hunt of wolves in
more than 50 years.”
State plans to hunt and trap wolves were a central issue
in the northern Rockies.
Sixty-six wolves were live-trapped in Canada and released
into Yellowstone National Park in 1995-1996, over intensive
opposition from hunters and ranchers.
At about the same time the Fish & Wildlife Service began
trying to reintroduce Mexican gray wolves to Arizona and New Mexico.
The Mexican gray wolf reintroduction has been slowed to a
near halt by the combination of political opposition from ranchers,
removals of wolves who prey on livestock, and malicious shootings.
Mexican gray wolves have remained officially endangered.
The Fish & Wildlife Service removed wolves in the northern
Rockies from Endangered Species Act protection in February 2008.
Estimating that the northern Rockies wolf population had
increased to 1,513, up from 1,455 six months earlier, the Fish &
Wildlife Service in March 2008 returned responsibility for wolf
population management in the Yellowstone region to the states of
Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
More than 180 wolves were killed in the name of predator
control by the end of the summer–and all three states announced wolf
hunting seasons to begin in fall 2008.
Acting on behalf of 12 animal and habitat protection groups,
EarthJustice attorney Doug Honnold on July 18, 2008 won a
preliminary injunction from Judge Molloy that temporarily put the
Yellowstone wolves back under federal authority.
“There were fall hunts scheduled that would call for perhaps
as many as 500 wolves to be killed,” testified Honnold.
“What we want to do is look at this more thoroughly,” Fish &
Wildlife Service spokesperson Sharon Rose told Matthew Brown of
Associated Press, after the service moved to withdraw the delisting.
“I would call that victory,” responded Honnold. “What
they’re requesting is to go back to the drawing boards.”
Not immediately clear was whether Defenders of Wildlife would
resume compensating ranchers in Montana for livestock lost to wolf
predation. Defenders has paid more than $1 million total
compensation since 1997 to ranchers in the northern Rockies, but
turned the Montana part of the program over to the state Livestock
Loss Reduction and Mitigation Program when wolves were delisted as a
federally protected species.
“The Montana legislature contributed $30,000 in start-up
funds, and Defenders donated $50,000 with a pledge to donate an
additional $50,000 in early 2009,” Great Falls Tribune staff writer
Karl Puckett recounted.
Through September 18, 2008, the state agency had paid
$17,000 in new claims, but had not received any of the further
funding it had anticipated from private donors, agency coordinator
George Edwards told Puckett.
WildEarth Guardians on September 23, 2008 petitioned the
Fish & Wildlife Service to develop a wolf recovery plan for four
regions of Colorado.
“We believe that the Southern Rockies needs wolves, and
wolves definitely need the Southern Rockies,” WildEarth carnivore
recovery director Rob Edward told Aspen Daily News correspondent
Wolves from the northern Rockies are believed to have
wandered into Colorado occasionally, but have not yet established
breeding populations. The WildEarth petition hopes to expedite their
return to Colorado with deliberate reintroduction.
“WildEarth Guardians is asking the federal government to
restore wolves to the Flat Tops, a vast area of rolling meadows and
buttes, much of it wilderness,” wrote Fry. “It includes the
largest elk herd in the country, which biologists say is too big for
the habitat to sustain. Edward said wolves could help improve the
ecologic balance by thinning the herd and forcing it to move,
allowing vegetation to recover.
“However,” Fry noted, “the region also includes many
ranchers and sheepherders who have fought against wolf