Department Of Interior Proposes Returning Gray Wolf Management To States

The Department of the Interior announced its intention to delist the grey wolf from the Endangered Species Act and return management responsibility back to the states and tribes.

The gray wolf, long considered an iconic species of the American west, had all but disappeared in the early 1900s. Through careful management and protection, the species made one of the greatest comebacks in American history. Healthy, stable populations of grey wolf inhabit the current range of nine states.

“Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is re-affirming the success of this recovery with a proposal to remove all gray wolves from protection under Endangered Species Act (ESA),” reports a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service news release.

“The facts are clear and indisputable—the gray wolf no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species. Today the wolf is thriving on its vast range and it is reasonable to conclude it will continue to do so in the future,” said David Bernhardt, Acting Secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior.

“Today’s action puts us one step closer to transitioning the extraordinary effort that we have invested in gray wolf recovery to other species who actually need the protections of the Endangered Species Act, leaving the states to carry on the legacy of wolf conservation.”

SCI has worked tirelessly supporting the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's and the states' efforts to delist recovered wolf populations in the U.S. and to return management to the states. 

Since 2003, SCI has participated in countless lawsuits defending Western Great Lakes and Rocky Mountain population wolf downlistings and delistings.  SCI has also gone to court in multiple states to defend wolf management plans and state regulated wolf harvests. 

The gray wolf has already been delisted in the Northern Rocky Mountains. The states of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington have shown their ability to manage this delisted wolf population responsibly so that it remains healthy and sustainable. Populations in Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are also strong and wolves are expanding into northern California, western Oregon and Washington. In total, the range-wide gray wolf population stands at more than 6,000, exceeding the combined recovery goals for the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes populations, according to the USFWS news release.

House Natural Resources Committee ranking Republican, Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued a statement in strong support of the delisting proposal:

 “This decision is long-awaited. For years, scientific evidence conducted by the Fish and Wildlife Service under multiple administrations from both sides of the aisle has shown the gray wolf is recovered and is now thriving. Today, the removal of the gray wolf from the endangered species list is not just a story of conservation success, but highlights the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act when the federal government is able to collaborate and transfer decision-making authority to state and local wildlife officials and land managers.

Unfortunately, this delisting was subject to perpetual litigation and also highlights ESA’s flaws. We need a streamlined delisting process to speed up non-controversial policy proposals like the delisting of the gray wolf. Until then, communities and species will continue to suffer when special interest litigants and activist judges dictate our ESA policy.”    

The Service’s proposal to delist the gray wolf throughout the contiguous United States is open for public comment in the Federal Register. Comments must be received by May 14, 2019.

All comments will be posted on


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