Safari Club International (SCI) applauds the recent announcement by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to continue to recognize the recovery of gray wolves in the lower 48 U.S. States and to defend the delisting of the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) lists. This decision comes as no surprise, as the USFWS has proposed to remove gray wolves from the ESA lists under every Presidential administration of the last 20 years. However, the Biden Administration had announced that they would review the basis for the most recent delisting rule. The Administration’s announcement confirms that the rule, and the continued commitment to removing the gray wolf from the ESA lists, is supported by the best scientific evidence and proven conservation strategies.
The gray wolf’s recovery is an ESA success story, as under the protection of the Act, wolf populations have rapidly increased and recolonized prime areas of habitat across the U.S. Since 2003, gray wolf populations have far surpassed recovery metrics, and the USFWS has sought to remove wolves from the ESA lists. Delisting a species both achieves the end-goal of ESA listing in the first place and, most importantly, frees up resources for truly endangered and less charismatic species, many of which are overlooked but strongly in need of federal protection (link to extinction blog).
Although this announcement confirms what we’ve known for years and follows the best available science, animal rights groups continue to fight against the delisting. SCI has been a leader in wolf litigation across the country, including the three cases currently proceeding simultaneously in the federal District Court for the Northern District of California. SCI, alongside the NRA, intervened in defense of the USFWS delisting. That litigation is ongoing.
The USFWS announcement is also consistent with SCI and SCI Foundation’s recent statement supporting sustainable predator management in North America, including state and local management of wolves. Return to responsible state management is one of the key outcomes of delisting a species from the ESA. Returning wolved to state management, in particular, can help reduce human-wolf-livestock conflicts and ensure that the people most affected by thriving wolf populations remain committed to the success of the species.
This USFWS announcement to continue to support and legally defend the delisting of gray wolves is a win for conservationists and advocates of science-based management across the country. The decision is great news as SCI continues to fight for the best management of wolves. SCI will always stand for science-based practices, sustainable management, and the role of hunters in conservation.