Legal Action Could Scuttle Effort to Strip Gray Wolves of Protection
MINNEAPOLIS— The Center for Biological Diversity today filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for violating the Endangered Species Act by never providing a comprehensive recovery plan for gray wolves nationwide as the law requires.
Today’s notice calls for a national wolf recovery plan. According to the Endangered Species Act, wolves must remain protected until the Fish and Wildlife Service implements such a plan.
Instead, this summer the agency announced plans to strip federal protection from wolves in the lower 48 states. That would make them vulnerable to trophy hunting and trapping, halting their progress toward recovery. The Service expects to publish a proposal to remove wolf protection by the end of the calendar year.
“With federal protections gray wolves have made tremendous progress, but they’re not yet recovered nationwide,” said Collette Adkins, a Minneapolis-based Center biologist and attorney. “If successful, our lawsuit would require the federal government to foster wolf populations in suitable areas across the country rather than rush to prematurely remove safeguards.”
A recovery plan would enable wolves to establish viable populations in areas where small populations are still recovering, including California, Oregon and Washington.
It would also promote recovery in areas like the southern Rockies, Dakotas and Adirondacks, which have suitable wolf habitat but no wolf populations.
The notice explains that the Service previously denied the Center’s formal petition requesting development of a national wolf recovery plan.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service needs to chart a path toward truly recovering wolves,” said Adkins. “We’re doing all we can to make sure Trump officials fulfill their obligation to restore wolves in suitable habitats across the country.”
Beyond a national plan for recovery, the Endangered Species Act requires the agency to conduct a status review every five years. But six years have passed since the last national wolf status review.