Trump removes gray wolf from Endangered Species List
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — More than 45 years after gray wolves were first listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Trump Administration and its many conservation partners are announcing the successful recovery of the gray wolf and its delisting from the ESA. U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt was at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge to announce that state and tribal wildlife management agency professionals will resume responsibility for sustainable management and protection of delisted gray wolves in states with gray wolf populations, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) monitors the species for five years to ensure the continued success of the species.
The Service based its final determination solely on the best scientific and commercial data available, a thorough analysis of threats and how they have been alleviated and the ongoing commitment and proven track record of states and tribes to continue managing for healthy wolf populations once delisted. This analysis includes the latest information about the wolf’s current and historical distribution in the contiguous United States
“Today’s 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 Secretary Bernhardt. “After more than 45 years as a listed species, the gray wolf has exceeded all conservation goals for recovery. Today’s 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.”
In total, the gray wolf population in the lower 48 states is more than 6,000 wolves, greatly exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations.
The gray wolf is the latest in a strong list of ESA recoveries that includes the bald eagle, peregrine falcon, American alligator, brown pelican and 48 other species of animals and plants in U.S. states, territories and waters. Countless more have improved or stabilized. Collectively, these successes demonstrate that the ESA can make a difference for imperiled species.
No administration in history has recovered more imperiled species in their first term than the Trump Administration. Since 2017, thirteen species – and now the gray wolf – have been determined to not be either a threatened species or endangered species under the ESA’s List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife, and another seven species have been downlisted from endangered species to threatened species. To provide context for this in looking at other administrations in their first term, the Obama Administration recovered six species; the Bush Administration recovered eight species; and the Clinton Administration recovered nine species.
“President Trump’s Administration has focused on proactive measures, including partnerships with organizations, to ensure listed species flourish to the point of recovery,” said Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aurelia Skipwith. “Today is a win for the gray wolf and the American people. I am grateful for these partnerships with States and Tribes and their commitment to sustainable management of wolves that will ensure the species long-term survival following this delisting.”
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 that included states, tribes, conservation organizations and private landowners working together under the auspices of the ESA, brought this great predator back to healthy, stable numbers. Gray wolves in the United States exist primarily as two large, genetically diverse, stable to growing populations broadly distributed across several contiguous U.S. States, with an additional large population in Alaska that was never listed.
Gray wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains, where a healthy and sustainable population roams across Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and eastern portions of Oregon and Washington, were previously delisted. These states have since managed this delisted population effectively and responsibly. Wolves have even expanded into western Oregon, western Washington, northern California and most recently in northwest Colorado.
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.
This final rule excludes Mexican wolves as that species remains listed under the ESA. The final rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.
More information is online at https://www.fws.gov/home/wolfrecovery.
BACKGROUND ON ESA REFORMS AND NORTH AMERICAN MODEL OF WILDLIFE CONSERVATION UNDER THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION
Fish and wildlife conservation depends on federal partnerships with states, landowners, and most importantly sportsmen who directly fund – to the tune of $1 billion last year alone and more than $23 billion since inception – conservation efforts by purchasing hunting and fishing licenses, fishing tackle, ammunition, boating fuel and other recreational items.
To support stronger on-the-ground conservation efforts, encourage private actions to benefit our most imperiled species and provide greater legal certainty for ESA determinations, the Service updated its ESA regulations in 2019 to improve the implementation of the law. The regulations hadn’t been updated since the ESA passed some forty years ago. However, those changes did not modify the five statutory factors that are considered for each listing determination. “We are proud of our efforts in Wyoming to conserve the gray wolf’s habitat and population in consultation with federal agencies,” stated Sublette County, Wyoming Commissioner Joel Bousman. “Populations continue to thrive in the northern Rocky Mountains because states implemented scientific measures that balance the needs of the species and our residents at the same time. Today’s decision to delist the gray wolf in the lower-48 states is further proof that population recovery goals can be met when all levels of government work together in a collaborative manner.”
“The Oregon Cattlemen’s Association together with all livestock producers applauds the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s final decision to delist Gray Wolves in the western two-thirds of the State. The continued 10 to 30% annual population increase of wolves and their spread to every corner of the State, support this long overdue decision. Producers have endured unacceptable personal stress, ongoing chronic confirmed and unconfirmed predation as well as loss of production in the cattle they work so hard to protect. This action will remove an unnecessary layer of management that has prevented responsible management for many years. This delisting does not remove all protections for Gray Wolves. Wolves will continue to be managed under the existing State Wolf Conservation and Management Plan. It is the expectation of OCA and every impacted producer that when clear, chronic predation is documented and the triggering criteria is met, swift, decisive management action will follow to stop the loss of livestock. This delisting supports responsible, effective management,” said Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Co-Chair Wolf Committee Roger Huffman.
“The Montana Stockgrowers Association commend the action taken to delist the gray wolf, as the species has exceeded its recovery goals. States regaining oversight will ensure continued commitment of maintaining healthy wolf populations. Management is always more impactful and effective when managed by the state. We applaud the administration, the Department of the Interior and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for moving this effort successfully forward,” said Montana Stockgrowers Association President Fred Wacker.
“The American Sheep Industry Association commends the Department of the Interior for the successful recovery of the gray wolf population under the ESA and returning management of this species to the states. We are confident that this will ensure the continued sustainable population while also providing more tools to manage interactions between wolves, the public and domestic livestock,” said American Sheep Industry Association President Benny Cox.
“The Cattlemen of Minnesota are very appreciative of the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service teams in their decision to delist the gray wolf, allowing our state specialist to manage the Minnesota gray wolf population. For generations beef producers, and wolf biologists in Minnesota have been working together to understand and improve landscapes where livestock and wolves can coexist,” stated Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association President Mike Landuyt. “With this ruling, management of the gray wolf is now in the hands of state officials who can best manage the population to benefit beef and livestock producers, as well as gray wolf habitat in our state.”
“Oregon sportsmen and women applaud the Department of the Interior delisting of the gray wolf. Their recovery is a conservation success story and the delisting should be celebrated. We look forward to our renowned state agencies and local biologists taking over wolf management,” said Oregon Outdoor Council President Dominic Aiello.
“For more than a decade, ranchers have worked with federal and state officials, as well as conservation and wildlife management groups to achieve lasting and meaningful recovery for the gray wolf. Wyoming has shown that delisting the wolf can be done responsibly and that states are well-equipped to manage their wildlife. We are grateful to Secretary Bernhardt, Director Skipwith, and their teams for respecting the science that says the wolf has recovered and ensuring a strong future for wildlife across the country,” stated Wyoming Wool Growers Association President Vance Broadbent.
–U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
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