WSF Signs on to Support State Management of Gray Wolves
By reversing the science-based decision of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the court took wolf management away from states in the Great Lakes, West Coast, and Central Rocky Mountains. Wolves in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming remain delisted and under state management.
The court did not dispute that wolf populations are far above recovery goals or that populations are expanding in these areas. Instead, the court objected to the delisting of wolves before all Lower 48 states are occupied.
Why? Because the ESA was crafted to address the recovery of an entire species. They could be listed and delisted. The ESA, as written does, not account for distinct populations, as they recover, within a state or region.
Besides the fact that courts are left to impose judgment on scientific wildlife management, which was never the intent of the ESA, this finding does raise a serious question. How can ESA work as intended if legal technicalities outweigh biology even when recovery is complete?
WSF maintains that the ESA is one of our most important conservation laws. It was originally crafted to address the recovery of an entire species. Holding back state management of recovered populations of an alpha predator like wolves until there are sustainable populations everywhere wolves once roamed is proving to be impractical in today’s human-dominated landscapes and a disastrous outcome for wolves, their prey, and people.
Because this 50-year-old law never saw this situation with gray wolves coming and doesn’t say how to delist a population, it needs to be modernized to address today’s real-world challenges. Otherwise, Congress will have to step in again as it did in 2011, overriding the courts and delisting wolf populations in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
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