This week, a federal court in California granted Safari Club International (SCI) and the National Rifle Association’s (NRA) motions to intervene in three lawsuits challenging the removal of gray wolves from the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) lists. The delisting of gray wolves, in response to population recovery, lifts management from federal control and gives it directly to the states. This has beneficial implications not only for hunters, but also for farmers and communities who live alongside ever-increasing wolf populations. The three lawsuits are contradicted by the best available science cited in the delisting rule.
The anti-hunting lawsuits were brought in the Northern District of California; that choice was somewhat surprising, as this is an area with no current wolf population, and the delisting has no impact on habitat, other species, or human communities in the area. Regardless, a successful outcome for the anti-hunting groups would significantly inhibit hunting and conservation efforts for both wolves and their prey, thus negatively affecting SCI and its membership. Thankfully, the judge has allowed SCI, alongside the NRA, to intervene as a matter of right – recognizing SCI and the NRA’s strong interests in defending the delisting and protecting the states’ authority to sustainably manage wolf populations. The court will also consider SCI and the NRA’s motions to dismiss the lawsuits. SCI and the NRA argued that the court lacks jurisdiction to hear the cases because the plaintiffs have not shown how their members are injured by the wolf delisting.
This is great news for SCI and its members, and science-based wildlife management. The fight over gray wolves is complex. But the reality is that human-wolf interaction can either be in conflict or in managed coexistence. With a thriving wolf population, it is essential to allow the communities who experience the greatest impact from gray wolves to have a say in responsible management of the species. Additionally, adaptive management, which incorporates regulated hunting, is the best conservation approach for wolves as it maintains ecologically healthy populations while mitigating as much human-wildlife conflict as possible and protecting prey species.
The delisting of the gray wolf was a huge victory, but as we can see there remains a long fight ahead. SCI will always stand on the side of hunters, sound and scientific wildlife management, and conservation.