Wyoming Gets a Surprise: Judge Puts Wolves Back on Endangered Species List

by Rona Fried

My heart sank for the 2800th time yesterday (about the number of gray wolves that have been killed since 2011) when I saw a photo of yet another dead wolf in Idaho.

Open season on wolves has begun in Idaho and Montana again.

But today, we got some really good news!

A judge in Wyoming reinstated federal Endangered Species protection for wolves in that state!! Conservation groups considered the court case a long shot but thankfully, they won.

The US District Court invalidated delisting by the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) in 2012, saying it was premature and a violation of federal law. Prior to its 2012 reversal, FWS denied Wyoming the authority to manage wolves because of its  extremely hostile anti-wolf laws and policies.  

Wyoming allows wolves to be killed at will, even along the borders of Yellowstone National Park and in national forests, making it open season across 80% of the state. 

"Wolves were treated as vermin under state management. If Wyoming wants to resume management of wolves, it must develop a legitimate conservation plan that ensures a vibrant wolf population in the northern Rockies," says Tim Preso, an attorney with Earthjustice, which represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity.

They challenged the disgusting decision by FWS to strip wolves from Endangered Species Act protections on the grounds that  Wyoming law authorizes unlimited wolf killing in a "predator" zone that extends throughout most of the state, and provides  inadequate protection for wolves even where killing is regulated.

This gorgeous wolf is trying to live in Idaho, where hunters receive a bounty for killing them:  

 Wolves Golden Idaho Pack

Wolves were listed for protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1973 after being killed almost to extinction by the early 1900s. Since then federal recovery programs have been successful, with wolf populations rebounding to about 5,500 wolves, about 5% of their historic numbers. 

Why the reversal of this success story? A rider was slipped into the must-pass 2011 US budget, removing wolves in those states from the Endangered Species List – the first time a species has ever been removed for political, not scientific reasons.

Still, FWS currently proposes to delist gray wolves from protection across the US – a final decision could be made later this year.

In June, we got some good news: wolves received protection under California’s Endangered Species Act just as the first wolf pack straddles the Oregon-California border … after 90 years of absence.  

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