Montana governor signs bill allowing payment to wolf hunters



Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill Friday allowing the use of private funds to reimburse wolf hunters or trappers for their expenses — reminiscent of bounties that widely exterminated the species in the last century.

Hunting and livestock groups, and their Republican allies in the legislature, contend not enough of the 1,200 wolves in Montana are being killed by hunters to limit their impact on big game outfitters or cattle and sheep producers.

The bill was sponsored by GOP state Sen. Bob Brown, who said there are too many wolves in his mountainous district in northwestern Montana.TOP ARTICLES ADWho will be next president of Modesto Junior College? Three finalists are revealed.

The reimbursement program is similar to one in Idaho, where a private group pays its members up to $1,000 for costs incurred while scouting, hunting or trapping wolves.

Opponents argued there are tourists who come to Montana to see wolves and if too many are killed, they will return to protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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Last week, Gianforte signed bills to allow the snaring of wolves, in addition to trapping; and another one to extend the wolf hunting season.

Lawmakers have also forwarded to the governor a bill to allow individuals to kill an unlimited number of wolves, hunt at night with artificial lights and night vision scopes and use bait to lure wolves into traps.

In Idaho, a bill that would allow the state to hire private contractors to reduce the wolf population from about 1,500 to 150 is quickly moving through the legislature. It allows the use of night-vision equipment to kill wolves as well as hunting from snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, among other changes.

Backers cite cattle and sheep deaths that cost ranchers hundreds of thousands of dollars, while opponents say the legislation threatens a 2002 wolf management plan involving the federal government.

Biden administration mum on gray wolves endangered species listing

Biden administration mum on gray wolves endangered species listing (


Photo by: National Park Service via AP, FileFILE – In this March 21, 2019, aerial file photo provided by the National Park Service, is the Junction Butte wolf pack in Yellowstone National Park.By: Jacob Fischler – Daily MontananPosted at 8:51 AM, Apr 05, 2021 and last updated 7:51 AM, Apr 05, 2021

A controversial decision in the last months of the Trump administration to remove gray wolves from the endangered species list led to a massive overhunt in Wisconsin this year that Ojibwe tribal representatives said disrespected their wishes.

But there’s no indication yet that the Biden administration will attempt to roll back that move, despite an order the day President Joe Biden took office that departments across the government review decisions from the previous four years that were “damaging to the environment, unsupported by the best available science, or otherwise not in the national interest.” The order specifically cited the gray wolf delisting as one to reconsider.

It’s also unclear what effect the three-day hunting season in Wisconsin, where hunters killed nearly double the state’s non-tribal quota, will have on other states.

The season was held in late February after a Nov. 3 Fish and Wildlife Service order removed gray wolves from the endangered species list in all of the lower 48 states, mostly affecting the Great Lakes region. Wolves in the Northern Rocky Mountains had already been delisted federally.

A Wisconsin judge ruled in February that state law required a wolf hunting season. The state set a limit of 119 wolves that could be harvested by the general public, with an additional 81 reserved for the Ojibwe tribes.

The tribes intended not to harvest wolves, but to use their quota as a means for conservation, said Dylan Jennings, a spokesman for the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, a group that represents 11 Ojibwe tribes in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.

Hunters killed 216 in just three days.

“The second it gets beyond a certain threshold, there’s a quick and irrational desire to hunt them again,” Jennings said.

Jennings’ group opposed the hunt because of biological factors and because of the reverence for wolves in Ojibwe culture.

The animal’s fate is seen as tied to the Ojibwe people, and they view policies throughout U.S. history where the government has sought to remove both Native Americans and wolves as strengthening that shared existence, Jennings said.

“What happens to one happens to the other,” he said. “There’s a mirror prophecy…. And that mirrored history is pretty fresh in the minds of a lot of our tribal nations.”

Although the state was forced by the court decision to hold a hunting season, Jennings said tribes were not meaningfully consulted.

“When you’re pushing for a hunt to happen in a week’s time, you’re essentially saying ‘We’re going to bypass the tribal consultation process,’” Jennings said. “And that’s exactly what tribal communities viewed as happening.”

The timing of Wisconsin’s hunt, when females may be pregnant and wolf pelts are not as valuable, added a layer of disrespect, the group said in a statement before the season opened.

Representatives for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources did not return messages seeking comment Friday.

Managing large carnivores

Government management of large carnivores like wolves is often controversial. The animals can pose a danger to people, livestock and the livelihoods of ranchers.

“Wolves are strong, smart and vicious predators,” Luke Hilgemann, the CEO of Hunter Nation, the organization that sued the state to force a wolf season, wrote in a March 19 op-ed for the Wisconsin State Journal. “Wolves are to be respected and revered. But too many of any species — particularly predators — can wreck the entire ecosystem.”

In neighboring Minnesota, wolf populations have remained strong since before the animal was listed on the federal endangered species list, said Dan Stark, a large carnivore specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The population has hovered around 2,700 for the past three years, about double the 1,250-1,400 goal that federal authorities set.

Stark said he didn’t have enough information about the Wisconsin season to speculate about how it might affect Minnesota’s management plan, but that examples from across North America, including Wisconsin’s, helped inform best practices for wolf hunting.

“Anything we can learn about what methods were allowed or what steps were taken to manage and provide the controls for that season closure could help inform us as we develop or if we adopt a proposal for a season,” he said.

Minnesota DNR policymaking committees include tribal members and formal tribal consultation is also part of the process, as is consultation with people concerned about wolves preying on livestock, Stark said.

The department’s review of its wolf management policy was slowed by the pandemic, Stark said. A review committee would likely have a plan ready for public review in the summer and a final recommendation in the fall.

Jennings said there was no indication of how the federal government might act. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland is the first Native American person to hold that office, but tribal communities understand her job goes beyond their concerns, Jennings said.

Other than citing the gray wolf in the executive order, the Biden administration has not given any other sign it intends to undo the delisting, which could be a lengthy process.

“The administration cannot simply yank back the rule,” said Kristin Boyles, a staff attorney with Earthjustice, an environmental group suing the federal government over the delisting.

If the agency agreed the rule was invalid, it could begin a new rulemaking process to put the gray wolf back on the list, she said.

The government’s answer to the Earthjustice suit is due April 19.

A spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service declined to comment. A spokesman for the Interior Department did not return a request for comment.

The Fish and Wildlife Service kept the grizzly bear, another well-known large and potentially dangerous mammal, on the endangered species list, the service announced this week.

Wolf hunting in Montana

In Montana, where wolf hunting has been legal since a 2011 law authored by Sen. Jon Tester and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, the state Legislature has pursued measures to expand hunting.

The Montana Wildlife Federation, which supported the 2011 law, has asked Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican, to veto seven bills. The proposals include measures to allow the use of spotlights in hunts, baits near traps, the killing of more than one wolf with a single license, and other measures conservationists consider unethical.

“What we’re seeing this session is an all-out war against wolves,” Nick Gevock, the conservation director for MWF, said. “We support ethical wolf hunting, but this is something different. This is a purposeful effort to drive their numbers to a bare minimum.”

Gilles Stockton, the president of the Montana Cattlemen’s Association, said the state’s official tally of around 870 wolves is likely an undercount. The animals are overpopulated throughout the state and are a threat to livestock producers, he said. Hunting is an important tool in managing that threat, he added.

The group didn’t have a position on the specific bills the Legislature has passed, but said “more aggressive methods are necessary and should be allowed.”

Many in western Montana, where wolf populations are more plentiful, have advocated for similar measures for years, Gevock said. But with the state now led by a Republican governor after 16 years of Democratic control, the chances of enactment are greater.

Gevock said the governor’s office has not said if it will veto the bills.

State authorities fined Gianforte earlier this month for killing a wolf without first taking the proper training course.

Tribal officials hopeful new Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland can end wolf hunting in Wisconsin

Frank VaisvilasGreen Bay Press-GazetteView Comments0:580:58

Tribal officials, especially those from Ojibwe nations in northern Wisconsin, are hopeful new U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland can help restore protections for gray wolves and stop another hunting season this fall.

Haaland was confirmed by the Senate last week as the first Native American to head a presidential cabinet department.

The agency manages 480 million federal acres, as well as the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service.

Haaland, 60, a citizen of the Pueblo Laguna tribe in New Mexico, had faced stiff criticism from Republican senators for past statements opposing fossil fuel extraction in favor of clean energy and for tweeting that “Republicans don’t believe in science.”

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., Native American Caucus co-chair, speaks to reporters on March 5, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington. President-elect Joe Biden plans to nominate Haaland as interior secretary. The historic pick would make her the first Native American to lead the powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation's tribes for generations.

Environmental groups applauded her confirmation, and tribal officials in Wisconsin are optimistic her office can address environmental concerns in the state.

These include officials from at least three Indigenous nations: the Lac du Flambeau, Lac Courte Oreilles and Sokaogon Ojibwe nations, who all want a stop to the hunting of gray wolves in northern Wisconsin.

RELATED:Tribal leaders in Wisconsin applaud Biden’s Native American pick for Cabinet

The gray wolf, or Ma’iingan, plays an important role in Ojibwe culture. The Ojibwe believe man arrived in the world after the rest of creation, but soon became depressed and lowly in spirit because he felt alone. Creator then introduced man to the wolf, and the two became brothers. 

“This forms the foundation of the Ojibwe relationship with wolves today,” said Peter David, a biologist for the Odanah-based Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission. “We consider the wolves’ best interests.”

The Ridges Sanctuary holds a free, two-part class.on learning to track carnivore mammals, such as the wolf.

David said tribal officials favor non-lethal methods in resolving conflicts wolves might have with the pets and livestock of people in and around forested areas where wolves hunt.

Conservationists say that while some farmers may lose more livestock than others to wolves, the estimated total livestock lost to all predators in Wisconsin is about 1%. They also argue there is some evidence that wolves play a large role in helping to create a much healthier ecosystem, but more research is needed.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources estimated in late winter 2020 that there were about 1,195 wolves in the state, the highest in recent years.

The population comeback of gray wolves prompted the Trump administration last fall to remove the animal from the federal endangered species list, paving the way for Wisconsin to once again have a wolf hunting season.

The Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission represents 11 Ojibwe nations in northern Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan in their treaty rights to hunt, fish and harvest in Ceded Territory outside the reservations.

The treaties with the U.S. guaranteed these rights to the Ojibwe in exchange for the government taking Ojibwe land.

As part of an agreement with the DNR, GLIFWC can claim a portion of the sustainable harvest in the Ceded Territory.

Although GLIFWC officials are not commenting whether Haaland’s office can have an impact on restoring protections for gray wolves, they did claim a portion of the quota the DNR set to be killed this winter.

Wisconsin’s minimum wolf population was recently estimated at nearly 900.

That harvest goal was 200 wolves, and GLIFWC claimed a quota of 81 with the intention of protecting that number from being killed.

The gray wolf is still a protected species under tribal codes of law.

Only 119 wolves were allotted to be killed, but hunters and trappers killed a total of 216 this winter. Tribal officials feel slighted by this, and other issues, and believe Haaland can help better protect their interests.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account

“Our legal right to meaningful consultation by state government about mining, protected species (including gray wolves), chronic wasting disease, air and water pollution and many more decisions impacting life-sustaining resources for future generations is often given short shrift or completely ignored,” said John D. Johnson Sr., president of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa. “Respect for our culture and traditions is consistently denigrated by many in power, and we believe Secretary Haaland can make a big difference in protecting our people, our culture and our traditions.”

Officials with other Indigenous nations in the state are hopeful Haaland’s office can help address other environmental concerns.

Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, vice chairman for the Oneida Nation Business Committee, said Haaland’s office can have a major positive environmental impact in the Green Bay area.

“She’ll have an impact on all of northeast Wisconsin,” he said.

That might include increasing funding for the Silver Creek Pilot Program, which aims to reduce phosphorus runoff from farm fertilizer into streams in northeast Wisconsin.

Yellowbird-Stevens said the Oneida Nation has already been able to reduce runoff by 90% working with farmers on the reservation by constructing buffers in swales.

He said her office might also help increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to increase the health of the Great Lakes.

“Invasive species are the main concern,” Yellowbird-Stevens said.

It is unclear whether Haaland’s office would have a direct impact on some of the other high-profile environmental concerns challenged by Indigenous nations, such as the Back Forty Mine

The Menominee Nation, in federal court, has challenged efforts by Canada-based Aquila Resource to start an open-pit mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that would extract gold, silver, zinc and copper.

Tribal officials argued the mine would negatively impact the environment, affecting the water in the region, which is historically significant to the Menominee Nation.

Attorney Janet Brimmer, who has represented Menominee Nation in the case, said that although the mine is near the Menominee River, the tribe hasn’t had much of a say in permit applications because the mine is in Michigan.

She said she doesn’t foresee Haaland having much effect on mining permits, but Haaland could possibly encourage Michigan officials to share more information with Menominee Nation officials and improve communication.

Brimmer said Aquila’s efforts are in limbo after a wetland permit was denied by a Michigan judge and the mine is not moving forward at this point, but the company could try again later this year. 

But with Haaland being a citizen of an Indigenous nation, tribal officials in Wisconsin believe she understands the effects environmental policy has on reservations, and the country as a whole and they believe she will represent them.

“The Unites States plays an enormous role in setting climate, natural resource and environmental policies that impact the entire planet,” said Shannon Holsey, president of the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Nation. “Perhaps no federal agency has a greater share of that role than the department of the interior. … Rep. Haaland … represents a person who will have a deep understanding of all the responsibilities of the secretary of the Interior


Timeline: Wolves in Danger | Earthjustice

The gray wolf is one of North America’s most iconic native predators. The wolf’s incredible comeback in the Northern Rockies is one of our country’s greatest wildlife success stories.

Explore the history of the Northern Rockies gray wolves, beginning in the 1930s when their numbers were decimated after years of persecution, through their successful reintroduction in the 1990s, to current day’s first legal wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies in nearly a century:What’s Happening Now

On Oct. 29, 2020, the Trump administration finalized a rule removing Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental U.S. (More details.)20TH CENTURY1933January catch of Forest Service hunter T.B. Bledsaw, Kaibab National Forest, circa 1914.ARIZONA HISTORICAL SOCIETYJanuary catch of Forest Service hunter T.B. Bledsaw, Kaibab National Forest, circa 1914.


Bounty hunters finish killing most wolves in the continental United States.

Tiny remnant populations cling to existence in several spots along the Canadian border in Michigan, Montana, and Idaho.

Reports of ghost wolf sightings trickle in from parts of Wyoming, Washington, and Idaho. 1973President Richard Nixon.WHITE HOUSE PHOTO


The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is signed into law by President Nixon.

It prohibits the “taking,” without explicit permission, of species deemed to be in danger of going extinct.

“Taking,” in this instance, means killing, harassing, or damaging habitat necessary for the survival and recovery of the species. 1974A 'wolf-like' animal sighted in Hayden Valley, August 7/8, 1992.RAY PAUNOVICH / BUSCH FILMS VIA NPSA “wolf-like” animal sighted in Hayden Valley, August 7/8, 1992.


As part of the first list of species to receive federal protections, gray wolves are listed as “endangered” under the ESA.

The designation applies to all remaining wolf populations in the lower-48 states. 1982


The ESA is amended to include the 10(j) rule, allowing the Interior Department to classify reintroduced species as experimental and nonessential.

The change is a result of local concerns about reintroduction of species to their historical ranges. 1995Schoolchildren at Yellowstone's Roosevelt Arch welcome a truck transporting wolves, January 1995.DIANE PAPINEAU / NATIONAL PARK SERVICESchoolchildren at Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Arch welcome a truck transporting wolves, January 1995.


The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) begins reintroducing gray wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone.

Wolves are brought in from Canada.21ST CENTURYJuly 2000


FWS proposes dropping “endangered” status for most wolves in the United States and reclassifying them as “threatened,” a designation under the ESA that carries milder protections than “endangered” status. 2003Wolves howling at Little America Flats in February 2003.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolves howling at Little America Flats in Yellowstone, February 2003.


FWS reclassifies most gray wolves in the lower-48 as “threatened.”

Work also begins to delist most gray wolves entirely. As a requirement for delisting, states with wolf populations must have laws and management plans to ensure continued survival of the species. 2004Wolf lying on glacial erratic at Yellowstone's Little America Flats, February 2, 2004.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf on glacial erratic at Yellowstone’s Little America Flats, February 2, 2004.


FWS accepts Montana’s and Idaho’s proposed management plans for wolves but rejects Wyoming’s.

The State of Wyoming, livestock and hunting interests supported plans to manage wolves as “predators,” which would permit indiscriminate killing in nearly 90% of Wyoming. 2004


The State of Wyoming and 28 Wyoming-based livestock and hunting groups file suit, challenging FWS’s rejection of the Wyoming management plan. November 2004


Earthjustice and other conservation groups intervene in the lawsuit to defend FWS’s decision to reject Wyoming’s management plan for wolves. January 2005


An Oregon district court judge rejects the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s decision to reclassify most wolves in the lower-48 to “threatened” from “endangered.” January 2005


An elk in winter.ISTOCKPHOTOAn elk in winter.

The Bush administration gives livestock owners in Montana and Idaho more power to kill wolves.

Under the new “10(j) rule,” livestock owners can kill wolves without a permit if wolves are chasing livestock.

The rule also says states can take action against wolves if it can be demonstrated they are the primary reason for decline among deer or elk populations.21ST CENTURYMarch 2005Wolf watchers at Yellowstone's Slough Creek, March 2005.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf watchers at Yellowstone’s Slough Creek, March 2005.


Federal District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson tosses out the lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming and livestock and hunting interests challenging FWS’s rejection of Wyoming’s management plan.

The case is ultimately appealed to the 10th Circuit. February 2006Wolf near Blacktail Pond in Yellowstone on February 16, 2006.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf near Blacktail Pond in Yellowstone, February 16, 2006.


FWS announces plans to remove gray wolves in the Northern Rockies (Idaho, Wyoming, Montana) from the Endangered Species List, but only if Wyoming adopts a state management plan that FWS deems appropriate.

Wyoming’s original plan, rejected by FWS, remains under review by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. April 2006Wolf 470F of Leopold Pack near Blacktail Pond.JIM PEACO / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolf 470F of the Leopold Pack, near Blacktail Pond in Yellowstone.


The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rules the lawsuit filed by the State of Wyoming and livestock and hunting interests to compel approval of the state management plan is without merit.

The ruling affirms a decision made one year prior by District Court Judge Alan B. Johnson, as well as FWS’s initial decision to reject the plan. August 2006


After 12 months of study, FWS rejects a petition filed by the Governor of Wyoming and the State Game & Fish Commission asking that gray wolves in the Northern Rockies be removed from the Endangered Species List.

The rejection is based on the lack of an adequate state management plan in Wyoming. February 2007


Wolves from the Druid Pack bed down in the snow.NATIONAL PARK SERVICEWolves from the Druid Pack bed down in the snow.

FWS issues a proposed rule to delist Northern Rockies gray wolves from the endangered species list.

Wyoming has yet to propose a management plan since their initial one was rejected by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. Without a Wyoming plan, FWS intends to keep a significant portion of wolves in Wyoming on the endangered species list. December 2007


In an about-face, FWS approves Wyoming’s state management plan.

The plan allows anyone to kill any wolf that wanders outside the northwest part of the state, including wolves that live most of the year in Yellowstone National Park and leave the park for periods in the winter in search of food. December 2007


Earthjustice files comments challenging the approval of Wyoming’s new plan to allow unlimited wolf killing in nearly 90% of the state. January 2008


An elk in winter.U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEMule deer.

Earthjustice challenges the Bush administration 10(j) rule that would allow wolves in Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana to be indiscriminately killed, including through aerial hunting.

To start killing, states only need to demonstrate that wolves are one of the reasons for elk and deer populations that fail to meet state objectives. February 2008


The final rule for delisting of the Northern Rockies population of gray wolves from the Endangered Species List is published.

Delisting is scheduled to take place in late March 2008. March 2008


The Northern Rockies gray wolves are officially removed from the endangered species list. Wyoming’s contentious state management plan takes effect. March 28, 2008His distinctive gait, walking on three legs, made him one of the more easily recognized wolves in Yellowstone.STEVE JUSTADWolf 253. His distinctive gait, walking on three legs, made him one of the more easily recognized wolves in Yellowstone.


Wolf 253 (aka, “Hoppy” or “Limpy”) is one of the first wolves killed after ESA protections are removed.

A member of Yellowstone’s famed Druid Pack, this particular wolf was unique. “He was a hell of a wolf,” recalled one veteran wolf watcher. April 2008


Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of 12 conservation groups, challenging the decision to delist Northern Rockies gray wolves from Endangered Species Act protections. July 2008


In response to the Earthjustice lawsuit, a federal court reinstated ESA protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies, just in time to keep wolves safe from fall hunts that would have been implemented in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Since delisting, more than 100 wolves were killed. Fall hunts would have killed hundreds more. January 2009The White House, shrouded in fog.PETE SOUZA / WHITE HOUSE


Days before leaving office, the Bush administration makes a final attempt to remove endangered species protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies (excluding Wyoming).

Earthjustice and other groups announce they will challenge delisting … again. An order by the Obama administration halts the proposed delisting for the time being. March 2009


Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.DEPARTMENT OF INTERIORSecretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

After nearly two months of waiting, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar affirms the FWS decision to remove endangered species protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana (as well as parts of Washington, Oregon, Utah and western Great Lakes).

Earthjustice and others announce they will challenge the decision. April 2009


Wolf pups emerge from a den, December 2009.HILARY COOLEY / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEWolf pups emerge from a den, December 2009.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies are again removed from the endangered species list. The delisting rule goes into effect on May 4, 2009.

With the exception of Wyoming, where wolves remain federally protected, states will take over management of their wolf populations. June 2009


Earthjustice files suit challenging the decision to remove Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. July 2009


Earthjustice asks the federal district court reviewing the delisting challenge for an emergency injunction to halt pending fall wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana. Earthjustice sought—and won—a similar injunction the last time wolf hunts began. September 2009


A federal district court issues an order finding that the delisting of wolves in the Northern Rockies was likely illegal, but declined to stop wolf hunts in Idaho and Montana.

The order comes a week after Idaho’s wolf hunting season opened on September 1. Montana is set to begin wolf hunting on September 15. March 31, 2010


Idaho’s wolf hunt season ends, with the loss of more than 500 wolves due to human killing.

The hunt, along with Montana’s similar season, followed the April 2009 delisting of populations in those states under the federal ESA. August 5, 2010Gray wolf, August 2010.TRACY BROOKS / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEGray wolf, August 2010.


Federal District Judge Donald Molloy restores ESA protections for wolves in Idaho and Montana, stating that the decision by FWS to remove protections in only two states is “a political solution that does not comply with the ESA.”

In his ruling, the judge affirmed that protections for the same population cannot differ by state. March 2011Wolf faces a snowstorm in Seney National Wildlife Refuge, January 2011.LARRY MCGAHEYWolf faces a snowstorm in Seney National Wildlife Refuge, January 2011.


Of the 14 conservation groups that joined in the June 2009 lawsuit to protect wolves, not all agree to a settlement with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. This requires Earthjustice to withdraw as the clients’ counsel. April 15, 2011


President Obama signs into law the “Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act” for fiscal year 2011.

The bill requires the Interior Secretary to reissue the “2009 Rule” which removed ESA protections for all Northern Rocky Mountain wolves, except those in Wyoming. August 3, 2011Storm clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C.ARCHITECT OF THE CAPITOLStorm clouds pass over the U.S. Capitol building.


Federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy upholds the 2011 legislation removing ESA protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

The legislation marks the first time Congress has legislatively delisted an endangered species. Fall 2011


The 2011–2012 Montana wolf hunting and Idaho wolf hunting and trapping seasons begin, during which 166 wolves are killed in Montana, and 379 wolves are killed in Idaho. October 5, 2011


FWS proposed a rule to remove the gray wolf in Wyoming from the endangered species list, claiming Wyoming’s wolf population is stable, threats will be addressed, and Wyoming’s wolf management laws are adequate.

This is notwithstanding FWS’s own peer review of the Wyoming delisting proposal, which concluded that “there is substantial risk to the population” because “the Plan, as written, does not do an adequate job of explaining how wolf populations will be maintained, and how recovery will be maintained.” March 14, 2012Wolf in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, January 12, 2012.U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICEWolf in Necedah National Wildlife Refuge, January 12, 2012.


The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Congress had the right to strip protections from wolves in Montana and Idaho in April 2011. August 31, 2012


FWS announced it is eliminating federal protections for Wyoming’s wolves, handing wolf management over to Wyoming, which will open almost all of the state to immediate, unconditional wolf killing.

Wyoming’s wolf population is estimated to be only 328 wolves, far fewer than either Idaho or Montana. November 14, 2012


Following the required 60-day notice of intent to sue, Earthjustice filed suit on behalf of conservation groups, challenging the federal government’s elimination of ESA protections for wolves in Wyoming.

The state policies will result in wolf deaths that undermine the recovery of the species. May 9, 2013


Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.KEITH SHANNON / U.S. FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICESecretary of the Interior Sally Jewell.

Six of the nation’s most prominent conservation groups called on Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to cancel plans by FWS to remove federal ESA protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower-48 states.

The letter is signed by the chief executives of the Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Earthjustice, Endangered Species Coalition, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club. June 7, 2013


FWS proposed removing federal Endangered Species Act protections for wolves across nearly the entire lower-48 states, except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where only about 75 wild wolves remain.

The plan would be disastrous for gray wolf recovery in the United States. December 17, 2013


Wolf in Yellowstone.BARRY O’NEILL / NATIONAL PARK SERVICEA wolf in Yellowstone.

In a public comment period, approximately one million Americans stood in opposition to the proposal to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves across most of the lower-48.

It is one of the largest numbers of comments ever submitted on a federal decision involving endangered species. February 2014


An independent scientific peer review unanimously concluded that the FWS’s national wolf delisting rule did not currently represent the “best available science.”

The study was commissioned by FWS and conducted by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis. January 7, 2014A member of the Golden pack in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.COURTESY OF HOBBIT HILL FILMS LLCA member of the Golden pack in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.


Earthjustice requested a court injunction to halt an unprecedented program by the U.S. Forest Service and Idaho Department of Fish & Game to exterminate the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek Packs deep within the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

The area is the largest forested wilderness area in the lower-48 states. IDFG commenced the program in December 2013 without public notice. January 18, 2014


Members of the Monumental pack in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.COURTESY OF HOBBIT HILL FILMS LLCMembers of the Monumental pack cross a ridge in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.

Earthjustice filed an emergency motion asking the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to preserve the wolves in the Frank Church Wilderness, after a federal district court judge rejected the injunction request.

The hunter-trapper hired by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has killed nine wolves from the Golden Creek and Monumental Creek Packs. July 29, 2014Members of the Golden pack in the  Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness.COURTESY OF HOBBIT HILL FILMS LLCMembers of the Golden pack.


Faced with the legal challenge and imminent hearing before the federal appeals court, the Idaho Department of Fish & Game abandoned its plan to resume the professional wolf-killing program in the Frank Church during the coming winter. September 23, 2014



A ruling from Federal District Court Judge Amy Jackson invalidated the statewide delisting of wolves in Wyoming, reinstating protections for the species.

Earthjustice represented Defenders of Wildlife, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity in challenging the FWS’s decision to strip Endangered Species Act protections from gray wolves in Wyoming.

219 wolves were killed under Wyoming’s management since the 2012 delisting. December 15, 2015


Wolves in Wyoming, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin will retain their federal protections after a contentious policy “rider” that would have stripped them of Endangered Species Act protections was excluded from the final omnibus government spending bill.

The rider would have overridden two federal court decisions (including the September 2014 victory for wolves in Wyoming) that found those states’ management plans do not sufficiently protect wolves, while also barring further judicial review of the court decision overrides. January 7, 2016


A coalition of conservationists, represented by Earthjustice, today filed a legal challenge to the decision by the U.S. Forest Service to allow the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to conduct approximately 120 helicopter landings in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness as part of a program to manipulate wildlife populations in the wilderness. January 13, 2016


The Idaho Fish & Game Department admitted that it broke an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service and used helicopter landings to collar wolves in the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness. This followed less than a week after Earthjustice filed its legal challenge. January 19, 2017


The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill concluded that the Forest Service violated the Wilderness Act and conducted insufficient environmental review in allowing IDFG to land helicopters in the River of No Return in January 2016 to capture and place radio telemetry collars on wild elk. IDFG also captured and radio-collared four wolves during these operations—an unauthorized action that was not permitted by the Forest Service, but that threatened to advance IDFG’s plans to undertake widespread wolf-killing in the wilderness by providing locational information on the collared wolves. March 7, 2017


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling in Defenders of Wildlife, et al. v. Zinke, et al., reversing a district court decision that had restored Endangered Species Act protections for gray wolves in Wyoming. April 25, 2017


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hands wolf management authority over to the State of Wyoming, despite state policies that promote unlimited wolf-killing across more than 80% of Wyoming and provide inadequate protections for wolves in the remainder. March 6, 2019


The Dept. of Interior announced a proposed rule would remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico, where only about 114 wild wolves remain. The Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental United States. (More details.) October 29, 2020


The Trump administration finalized a rule removing Endangered Species Act protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made its decision despite the fact that wolves are still functionally extinct in the vast majority of their former range across the continental U.S. (More details.)

“This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy — and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court,” said Earthjustice attorney Kristen Boyles.

Wisconsin opens early wolf hunt after hunter group sued

TODD RICHMOND, Associated PressFeb. 22, 2021Updated: Feb. 22, 2021 2:56 p.m.

FILE - This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. Wisconsin wildlife officials opened an abbreviated wolf season Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, complying with a court order to start the hunt immediately rather than wait until November. The hunt will run through Sunday, Feb. 28 across six management zones.
FILE – This July 16, 2004, file photo, shows a gray wolf at the Wildlife Science Center in Forest Lake, Minn. Wisconsin wildlife officials opened an abbreviated wolf season Monday, Feb. 22, 2021, complying with a court order to start the hunt immediately rather than wait until November. The hunt will run through Sunday, Feb. 28 across six management zones.Dawn Villella/AP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin wildlife officials opened a wolf season Monday after hunting advocates sued to move the start date up from November amid fears that the Biden administration might restore protections for the animals.

The hunt will run through Sunday across six management zones. The DNR set the kill limit at 200 animals, with 119 allocated to the state and the other 81 allocated to Wisconsin’s Chippewa tribes as per treaty agreements. However, the Chippewa regard the wolf as sacred and will not hunt it, leaving the working kill limit at 119.

The DNR estimates that there are at least 1,000 wolves in Wisconsin and its aim is to maintain a population of 350. The agency issued 2,380 permits, or 20 times its kill limit for non-tribal members. Department officials said Monday that they received 27,151 applications.

Wisconsin law requires the DNR to run a wolf hunt from the beginning of November through the end of February. But wolves have been bouncing on and off the federal endangered species list for the past decade. The DNR ran its first hunt in 2012 after the Obama administration removed protections and ran two more before a federal judge re-listed the animals in late 2014.

The Trump administration delisted wolves in most of the U.S. again in January. The DNR was preparing to hold a season in November, but a Kansas-based hunting advocacy group, Hunter Nation, won an order from a Jefferson County judge that forced the agency to hold a season before the end of February. The group argued that President Joe Biden’s administration could restore protections for wolves before November and deny hunters a season.

Wolf management has been one of the most contentious outdoor issues that Wisconsin has grappled with over the past 20 years. More

Northern Wisconsin farmers and residents say wolves kill their livestock and pets. According to DNR data, the state paid a total of $189,748 in 2019 to farmers and dog owners to compensate them for losses to wolves. It paid out $144,509 in 2018 and $102,600 in 2017.

Conservationists counter that the wolf population isn’t stable enough to support hunting them and that the animals are too beautiful to allow it.

Legislators in neighboring Minnesota have introduced dueling bills that would ban hunting wolves in that state and mandate a season. Maureen Hackett, founder and president of Howling for Wolves, a Minnesota-based wolf advocacy organization, issued a statement Monday condemning the Wisconsin hunt.

“As apex predators, (wolves) have the social and biological structure to control their own pack sizes and numbers,” she said. “The political decision to remove federal Endangered Species Act protections for the wolf is against public sentiment and sound science.”

An animal rights group calling itself Wolf Patrol planned to monitor hunters across the northern management zones starting Monday. In 2016, then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill prohibiting people from bothering hunters in the woods in response to allegations that Wolf Patrol members followed and filmed wolf hunters in Wisconsin and Montana in 2014.

The Wisconsin DNR still plans to go ahead with another season starting in November.


This story has been updated to correct that the DNR issued 2,380 permits, not 4,000.


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Court won’t hear appeal to stop Wisconsin wolf hunt

DNR sets harvest quota of 400 wolves
DNR sets harvest quota of 400 wolves(WBAY)

Court won’t hear appeal to stop Wisconsin wolf hunt (

By Associated PressPublished: Feb. 19, 2021 at 3:51 PM PST|Updated: 18 hours ago

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin Court of Appeals has dismissed a Department of Natural Resources request to stop the wolf hunt, which is scheduled to begin next week.

The DNR was appealing a court order that requires a hunt this month. Although the Natural Resources Board authorized the wolf hunt on the judge’s orders, the DNR was nevertheless appealing the Jefferson County judge’s order which said the agency violated hunters’ constitutional rights (see related story).

But the appeals court says that the order was not a final judgment, so the appellate court has no jurisdiction over the appeal.

The weeklong wolf hunt will run from Feb. 22 through Feb. 28, and the permit application period closes at midnight Saturday. The state will issue 4,000 hunting licenses. Up to 200 animals will be allowed to be harvested.

Push For Wisconsin Wolf Hunting Season This Winter Fails

By SUSAN BENCE JAN 25, 2021ShareTweetEmail

  • One of the concerns raised about a proposed late winter hunting season is that it could disrupt the wolf breeding season.UW-STEVENS POINT

ListenListening…5:49WUWM’s environment reporter Susan Bence reports on a Natural Resources Board special meeting to consider a call to hold a wolf hunting and trapping season this winter.

The controversy over how the gray wolf, humans, livestock and pets can coexist is not new. The wolf has been on and off of the federal endangered species list within the last decade.

Early this month, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service delisted the wolf, transferring its management to states.

A dozen Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin sent a letter to the state’s Natural Resources Board urging approval of a hunt this winter. The letter resulted in a special board meeting Friday to discuss the issue.

Sen. Rob Stafsholt reminded the board about the 2011 statute requiring — whenever the wolf is delisted — an annual hunting and trapping season from early November through February.

“Hunting and trapping regulations from the 2014 wolf harvest season could easily be used for a current season. Science was already used for that regulation book; no new science is needed,” he said.

The Natural Resources Board sets wildlife management policy for the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to follow, which includes hunting seasons.

Wisconsin has held three concurrent annual wolf harvests, the last in 2014. DNR officials are proposing the next kick off November 6, 2021.

Wildlife and Parks Division Administrator Keith Warnke said that gives the DNR time to factor in the latest science — both biological and social. He said one of the first steps is updating the state’s wolf management plan.

“Our goal is to launch a wolf management webpage in early February, launch a public input process in late April or early May, and host the first of four public meetings on the wolf management plan in July,” explained Warnke.

The need of an updated management plan now is a point of contention.

“The management plan that’s in place now, it is solid science. Clearly the science in the current plan would be fully protective of the wolf population of the state of Wisconsin,” said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and a former DNR secretary.

Now-retired DNR wildlife biologist Adrian Wydeven headed Wisconsin’s wolf recovery program and helped craft the existing management plan more than 20 years ago. Wydeven said new research — including population modeling and people’s attitudes about sustaining a wolf population — needs to be considered to properly steward wolves now and into the future.

“We’ve got more information on just the ecological benefits of wolves, the potential impact on things like chronic wasting diseases and using that as a factor. I think there is a lot of work that has been done since the 1999 plan that needs to be included in updating this new wolf harvest system,” he said.

On Friday, lots of people had a lot to say about the gray wolf — over four hours of testimony. At least 800 watched remotely, and more than 1,000 comments flooded the Natural Resources Board inbox.

Ryan Klusendorf wanted anyone listening to know that his fourth generation 120-cow dairy farm “on the edge of the Northwoods” in Medford is being threatened by wolves.

“Our first known harassment started in 2011 and has not stopped since and I move my cattle within 100 feet of my buildings at night to protect them, and all it did was bring wolves closer to my children as well,” he said. “I plead with you, rural Wisconsin needs the hunt now.”Wildlife specialist Abi Fergus commented on behalf of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa during the special Natural Resources Board meeting.CREDIT SCREEN SHOT

Abby Fergus said tribal input must be factored into Wisconsin’s wolf management and harvest plan. Fergus is a wildlife specialist for The Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and spoke on behalf of her tribe.

“Bad River and other Anishinaabe bands have stewarded relationships with Ma’iingans (wolves) since time in memorial and hold great knowledge in this area,” she said.

Fergus warned that a decision to hold a wolf harvest in February may create unintended consequences.

“I’d like to point out the high potential for a hunt concentrated during the sensitive mating season would entail even more negative and more unpredictable impacts. Wolves that survive may experience pack breakup and these situations can lead to increased livestock depredation,” she said. “The state has legal obligations to be working with the tribes on this.”

In the end, the board took up a motion to open a wolf hunting season no later than February 10, using the 2014 harvest quotas.

It was voted down 4 to 3, after a lengthy discussion about obligations under a 1983 federal court ruling that clarified treaties signed in the 1800s with Ojibwe tribes.

DNR Chief Legal Counsel Cheryl Heilman explained the state is required to consult with tribes before, not after, a harvest plan is finalized.

“The usual process is that if the department has a committee, and so we have a wolf committee. There needs to be tribal representation. And setting the quota, ordinarily the process would allow us to consult with the wolf committee to get that tribal input. There are other ways that the department could get the tribal input, but I believe based on at least the testimony I heard here today, you haven’t yet taken that step,” she said.

For now, it looks like the DNR will move forward with updating its management plan and approving a hunt starting November 6 after, the agency says, “working collaboratively and transparently with the wide array of diverse interests associated with wolf management in Wisconsin.”

Gray wolf once more under state management, allowing lethal control

Paul A. SmithMilwaukee Journal SentinelView Comments0:530:59

The gray wolf was removed Jan. 4 from the federal Endangered Species List, allowing state agencies to resume management authority for the species.

The gray wolf has been removed from the federal Endangered Species List, allowing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and other state agencies to assume management of the species.

The delisting decision, announced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in late October and published in early November, became effective Jan. 4.

The change allows lethal measures to be used on the animals, including the killing of wolves that cause depredation of livestock as well as the use of hunting and trapping seasons to manage populations of the native predators.

In a statement, the DNR said it has “successfully managed gray wolves for decades and will continue to do so in accordance with the laws of our state and the best science available.”

The state most recently held management authority over wolves from 2012-14, when it held three hunting and trapping seasons and killed 528 wolves. A federal judge returned wolves to the Endangered Species List in Dec. 2014.

Wisconsin law requires a wolf hunting and trapping season to be held when the species is not under protections of the Endangered Species Act. The DNR plans to begin the next wolf season Nov. 6.

The agency also said it is working to complete a 10-year wolf management plan to help guide future management decisions for the species in Wisconsin.

A map shows gray wolf packs in Wisconsin detected in a 2019-20 winter tracking survey.

Although delisted, it remains unlawful to shoot a wolf unless there is an immediate threat to human safety. Or, if on private land, a wolf can be shot and killed if it is in the act of killing or wounding livestock or a domestic animal such as a pet.

The delisting also triggered a change in the funding source and the timing used to pay for wolf depredations. The monies must now come from proceeds of sales of wolf hunting and trapping licenses and applications. When protected by the ESA, the compensation is drawn from the state’s endangered resources fund.

Under state management, the payouts for wolf depredations will also be delayed until the end of the year, and could be pro-rated based on available funds, said Brad Koele, DNR wildlife damage specialist.

State statute allows payments of $2,500 to hound hunters and others who have lost dogs to wolves. But that could be reduced if insufficient funds are available.

Wolf depredations in Wisconsin were running higher in 2020. A DNR report through the end of October showed 90 confirmed or probable wolf depredations, compared to full-year depredations of 82, 73 and 61 in 2019, 2018 and 2017, respectively.

No wolf depredation of a farm animal or pet has occurred in Wisconsin so far in 2021, according to state data.

The DNR estimated the 2019-20 Wisconsin wolf population at a modern-era high of 1,195 animals and 256 packs.

The population of gray wolves in Wisconsin increased to a modern-era high in late winter 2020, according to an estimate from the Department of Natural Resources.

No case of a wolf attack on a human has been verified in Wisconsin history.

If wolf depredation is seen or suspected, the public should contact USDA-Wildlife Services at (800) 228-1368 in northern Wisconsin and (800) 433-0663 in the rest of the state. 

The agency, which is contracted by the DNR, will send a staff member to the site to conduct an investigation.

To assist with the investigation, USDA-Wildlife Services recommends not moving or unnecessarily handling a carcass as well as preserving any evidence at the kill site by using a tarp to cover a carcass to discourage scavengers and preserve any tracks, scat and other material.

The delisting was opposed by American Indian tribes and many environmental and animal protection organizations. 

Several groups, including Defenders of Wildlife, have vowed to overturn the delisting through legal action.

Mandatory wolf trapping class offered online


Last updated 12/2/2020 at 11:12am

From Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

HELENA — Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will offer the last online wolf trapping certification class of the season Tuesday, Dec. 8, from 5 to 8:30 p.m. 

To register for the free class, people can visit the FWP website at and follow the links to “Education” and “Wolf Trapper Education & Certification.”

Because of current COVID-19 restrictions, FWP will offer no in-person classes this fall. The class will be online via ZOOM. Students will be sent the ZOOM address for the class when they register.

Gray Wolf Stripped of Federal Protections

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FROM Project Coyote
October 2020

Fish and Wildlife Service removes the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act, halting wolf recovery.

Gray Wolf
© Jim Robertson, author of Exposing the Big Game: Living Targets of a Dying Sport

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service finalized a rule removing protections for all gray wolves in the lower-48 states except for a small population of Mexican wolves in Arizona and New Mexico.

The rule, proposed last year, outraged Americans, with approximately 1.8 million comments submitted by the public opposing delisting. Additionally, 86 members of Congress (in both the House and Senate), 100 scientists, 230 businesses, and 367 veterinary professionals submitted letters opposing the wolf delisting plan. Today Dr. Jane Goodall released a video in response to the decision. Even the scientific peer reviews commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service itself found that the agency’s proposal contained numerous errors and appeared to come to a predetermined conclusion, with inadequate scientific support. Despite this public and scientific outcry, the rule issued today removes all federal protections from gray wolves.

The following are statements from a coalition of organizations that work toward wildlife conservation:

“This is no ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment for wolf recovery,” said Kristen Boyles, Earthjustice attorney. “Wolves are only starting to get a toehold in places like Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, and wolves need federal protection to explore habitat in the Southern Rockies and the Northeast. This delisting decision is what happens when bad science drives bad policy – and it’s illegal, so we will see them in court.”

“Wolves are too imperiled and ecologically important to be cruelly trapped or gunned down for sport,” said Collette Adkins, Carnivore Conservation Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Trump administration is catering to trophy hunters, the livestock industry and other special interests that want to kill wolves. We’ll do everything we can to stop it.”

“The decision to remove critical protections for still-recovering gray wolves is dangerously short-sighted, especially in the face of an extinction crisis. We should be putting more effort into coexistence with wolves instead of stripping critical protections still needed for their full recovery. The science is clear that we need to be doing more to protect nature and wildlife, not less.,” said Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune.

“We are disappointed in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s final determination to remove federal protections for the gray wolf in the lower 48 states,” states Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA. “With current gray wolf habitats spanning states that are hostile towards the species, gray wolves still teeter on the verge of recovery. Delisting this American icon appeases a small percentage of the American public and will surely damage the viability of future populations.”

“Without the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act, gray wolves would never have recovered in the places where they are now,” said Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “By removing protections across the country, the Trump Administration is abandoning efforts to restore this iconic American species to millions of acres of wild habitat.”

“Protecting and restoring the iconic call of the wolf is our duty to not only the populations of wolves that continue to be persecuted to this day, but to the ecosystems that depend upon them. Removing protections for wolves under the Endangered Species Act ensures that these much-maligned creatures will continue to struggle for their rightful place in the natural world, ” stated Louie Psihoyos, Founder and Executive Director of Oceanic Preservation Society. “As we confront the 6th Mass Extinction, we must work to defend every living component to maintain nature’s complex and delicate balance.”

“Wolves are just beginning a tentative recovery in states like Washington, Oregon, California, and Colorado, and the howl of the wolf is completely absent from their natural habitats in states like Nevada and Utah,” said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist and Executive Director of Western Watersheds Project. “Removing Endangered Species Act protections before wolf populations are secure, and before their recovery is complete, is ecologically irresponsible.”

“By turning over gray wolf management to the states, the Fish and Wildlife Service is relying on local management regimes that often undermine gray wolf recovery efforts,” said Cathy Liss, president of the Animal Welfare Institute. “Many of the states’ wolf management plans are vague and unenforceable, lack sources of funding, and prioritize recreational hunting interests over the maintenance of viable wolf populations. Gray wolves are apex predators who play a vital role in ecosystems, contribute to a multibillion-dollar outdoor tourism industry, and are a beloved symbol of our nation’s wildlands.”

“Where wolves are unprotected, they are mercilessly persecuted, as we’ve already had a glimpse of in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, ” said Lindsay Larris, Wildlife Program Director at WildEarth Guardians. “Now they are defenseless across their range, which is bad news for wolves, but good news for people who want to shoot and trap them. The Trump administration is once again destroying our shared natural resources for the interests of a few.”

“Stripping protections for gray wolves is premature and reckless,” said Defenders of Wildlife President and CEO, Jamie Rappaport Clark. “Gray wolves occupy only a fraction of their former range and need continued federal protection to fully recover. We will be taking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to court to defend this iconic species.”

“If we want to save wolves, we need a national plan, if not a continental one,” said Environment America’s Conservation Program Senior Director Steve Blackledge. “Wolves need plenty of space to roam, and it just doesn’t make sense to create arbitrary boundaries for them. Do we really want to lose the hearty howl of the gray wolf on our watch?”

“You cannot have a national wolf recovery without putting forward a national wolf recovery plan. This still has not happened, so eliminating federal protections for gray wolves is a huge setback in recovery efforts,” said Sylvia Fallon, Senior Director, Wildlife for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Wolves are still missing from much of their remaining habitat in the West and throughout the Northeast. As we face a biodiversity crisis of global proportions, now is the time to restore species to the landscape – not dial back efforts. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has decided on the exact opposite.”

“The many threats that caused wolves to become endangered still exist,” said Nancy Warren, Executive Director National Wolfwatcher Coalition. “States have shown over and over again, that wolf management is based on politics rather than science. The cumulative effects of interpack strife, aggressive hunting and trapping practices, legal and illegal killings, car collisions and disease impact not only wolf populations but also the social structure of packs well beyond the extent of each individual threat.”

“Once large carnivores lose federal protections, the states often open liberal hunting and trapping seasons, purposely depleting populations,” said Garrick Dutcher, Research and Program Director for Living with Wolves. “History shows this to be especially true for the gray wolf, whose recovery is underway, but nowhere near complete. There is no biologically sound reason to lessen or remove protections for wolves.”

“The return of the wolf reflects more fully functional and wild ecosystems,” said Wolf Conservation Center Executive Director, Maggie Howell. “While we agree that wolves cannot be recovered everywhere they used to be found, there is still plenty of suitable habitat left in areas where wolves have yet to recover. Vast swaths of existing, highly suitable habitat in the Southern Rockies, parts of West, and the Northeast will now remain forever impoverished by reduced biological diversity and impaired ecosystem health.”

“Wolves are only recovered in 15% of their range at best,” stated Camilla Fox, Founder and Executive Director of Project Coyote. “Only anti-wolf bias, and certainly not credible science, would conclude that 15% constitutes a significant portion of wolves’ historic range. This completely contravenes the notion of evidence-based policy or science-based wolf recovery.”

“Given that gray wolves in the lower 48 states occupy a fraction of their historical and currently available habitat, the Fish and Wildlife Service determining they are successfully recovered does not pass the straight-face test,” said John Mellgren, an attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center. “On its face, this appears to be politically motivated. While the Trump administration may believe it can disregard science, the law does not support such a stance. We look forward to having a court hear our science-based arguments for why wolves desperately need Endangered Species Act protections to fully recover.”

“Restoring endangered species is much more than a minimum population numbers game”. stated David Parsons, Carnivore Conservation Biologist at The Rewilding Institute. “The first purpose of the ESA is to restore ecosystems that are critical to the recovery of endangered species. Gray wolves are keystone species in their ecosystems, and removing their protection under the ESA will forever preclude them from re-inhabiting significant areas historically occupied habitats, leaving these areas ecologically impoverished.”

“Until all wildlife voices are weighted equally and the state agencies inhumane and unscientific management plans are changed to reflect real Wisconsin values on wolf conservation and independent research, then the wolf hasn’t truly recovered. Endangered species conservation begins and ends with managing and educating people. Delisting would essentially throw the wolf back into the hands of the very same attitudes and practices that caused their extinction in Wisconsin,” said Melissa Smith, director of Great Lakes Wildlife Alliance and Friends of the Wisconsin Wolf & Wildlife.

“Entrusting states with gray wolf management is a brutal and failed experiment,” said Kimberly Baker, Executive Director of the Klamath Forest Alliance. “Idaho serves as a horrific example, where 60% of the state’s wolf population, including dozens of pups, were exterminated in a single year, destroying decades of wolf recovery efforts.”

“Delisting will cause wolves to fall prey to the whim of state governments, led by boards disproportionately represented by hunting/trapping interests,” said Karol Miller, President of The 06 Legacy. “This conflict of interest is without consideration of the positive role of wolves or the need for sufficient populations to fulfill their role as a critical keystone species in a healthy ecosystem.”

“The northeast has been totally ignored by state and federal governments despite the fact that it contains tens of thousands of square miles of potentially suitable wolf habitat, abundant prey, and is as near as sixty miles to existing wolf populations in Canada,” according to John Glowa, President of The Maine Wolf Coalition, Inc. “Furthermore, recent evidence indicates that wolves have returned to the region. This keystone predator is an essential part of the ecosystem in the northeast where deer populations are exploding and where moose are lacking natural predators. Stripping federal protection will doom natural wolf recolonization and will ensure that the ecosystem is never returned to its natural state.”

“Wolves are one of the most highly persecuted species in North America, and the humans that came before us did a remarkable job of eliminating these carnivores from our landscapes,” said Wildlands Network Conservation Director and Interim Executive Director Greg Costello. “We now recognize the ecological need for wolves, and must continue to uphold the inherent right of this species to coexist in the world.”

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has once more shown its blatant disregard for the values of the majority of Americans who care deeply about wolves and don’t want to see them killed for the pleasure of a few trophy hunters,” said Sara Amundson, President of Humane Society Legislative Fund. “ This politicized decision by the Trump Administration throws away decades of science-based recovery efforts and is based on the same fearmongering and hate that caused the extirpation of wolves a hundred years ago. We’ll never give up fighting to secure their permanent protection from such wanton cruelty and destruction.”

“Wolves are among the essential wildlife for healthy, resilient ecosystems, especially during these times of chaotic climate change. In addition, wolves are also valued by many Americans for their intrinsic worth as co-inhabitants of the Earth’s wildlands.” Kim Crumbo, Wildlands Coordinator, The Rewilding Institute.

“Removing protections for gray wolves amid a global extinction crisis is short-sighted and dangerous to America’s conservation legacy,” said Bart Melton, Wildlife Program Director for the National Parks Conservation Association. “Rather than working alongside communities to support the return of wolves to parks and surrounding landscapes including Dinosaur National Monument, North Cascades and Lassen National Forest, the administration essentially today said, ‘good enough’ and removed Endangered Species Act protections. The Fish and Wildlife Service’s proposal ignores the requirements of the Endangered Species Act, science, and common sense.”

“The gray wolf is a keystone species that plays a critical role in maintaining healthy ecosystems across its historic range,” said Danielle Kessler, U.S. Country Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. “Wolf populations are far from recovered in much of their native territory. Removing federal protections now and placing wolves in the hands of state managers only threatens already fragile gains. No state has the breadth of vision to oversee recovery efforts for species that range beyond its boundaries. For the sake of our shared environment, as well as the health and survival of gray wolves themselves, federal protections remain essential for this iconic American species.”

“Howling For Wolves is adamant in our opposition to wolf trophy hunting and trapping. We have witnessed how wolf hunting and trapping harms the wolf population. Human wolf killing destroys the individual wolf, which is a magnificent and social animal, and these killings cause other secondary wolf deaths. Research shows that human wolf killing disrupts wolf packs, causing unstable and unpredictable effects including increased wolf-livestock conflicts,” said Howling For Wolves President and Founder Dr. Maureen Hackett.