Biden Administration Lines Up Against Federal Court’s Decision to Overturn ESA Rule for Gray Wolves

This week, the Biden administration appealed a poorly reasoned federal district court decision. That ruling overturned a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) rule that removed Endangered Species Act (ESA) status for gray wolves throughout much of the United States. Safari Club International (SCI) commends the administration’s decision, as an appeal will take a necessary stand against incorrect legal precedent and will protect important wolf conservation policies.

Since 2003 and spanning three Presidential administrations, the Service has repeatedly tried to remove gray wolves from under the ESA — a move that is not only justified by wolf population recovery but will also free up regulatory resources to protect other species that are truly at risk.  During the previous administration, however, the Service succeeded in delisting the gray wolf in the lower 48 U.S. states.  The Service’s decision was based on the best available science showing, among other things, that the largest population of wolves in the Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, have exceeded recovery goals for 20 years. Wolves have also expanded their range to new habitat, including a recently confirmed pack inhabiting the State of Colorado. Unfortunately, a federal court in California vacated the Service’s decision and reimposed ESA protections on gray wolves in a February 2022 decision.

This appeal is the first step to correcting the district court’s errors. As expected, anti-hunting groups are outraged at the Biden administration’s decision. Although these groups generally acknowledge that gray wolves have recovered in parts of the country, including the Great Lakes, they seek to force the Service to reestablish wolf populations everywhere—from Maine to Washington State. But their ideological focus ignores real-world constraints on wolf recovery, including suitable habitat and human-wolf conflicts.

Not only are these groups unconcerned with true conservation efforts and the direct benefits inherent in protecting state and local species management, but they are willing to accept the dangerous precedent set by the recent federal district court decision so that they can actively fundraise based on emotion, not science.   

SCI, however, supports the decision to take the first steps to protect a science-based approach to wildlife management wherein species are removed from the ESA when recovery criteria are met. SCI urges the Service to continue to challenge anti-conservation policies in the future.  

Sign SCI’s petition to support science-based wolf management!

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