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WI: Federal Government Working On Removing Gray Wolf From Endangered Species List

US Fish And Wildlife Service Announces Wolf Populations Have Exceeded Goals In The Upper Midwest

By Rich Kremer

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is once again taking steps to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list. The move comes after a federal appeals court retained federal protections for the species last year.

The agency released a press release in March announcing it was beginning the process of delisting gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region. The statement said USFWS would examine the health of the gray wolf in the western Great Lakes area after it reported population goals were exceeded in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Upper Michigan.

“Wolves in the western Great Lakes have achieved recovery,” said USFWS Acting Director Rowan Gould. “We are taking this step because wolf populations have met recovery goals and no longer need the protection of the Endangered Species Act. We are asking the public to review this proposal and provide us with any additional information that can help inform our final decision.”

This is the second attempt by the federal government to delist the gray wolf.

It did so in 2011, which led Wisconsin lawmakers to establish a controversial wolf hunting season. But in 2014 a federal judge overturned the Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision saying the agency made errors throughout the process including not accounting for things like how a loss of habitat may impact wolf recovery. The 2014 federal ruling also ended Wisconsin’s wolf hunt.

Endangered Species Coalition Great Lakes field representative Melissa Smith said that decision and the lawsuit that spurred it was about ensuring that proper procedure was followed during the rule-making process. She said if the Fish and Wildlife Service does it right, she’s alright with the agency embarking down the path toward delisting.

“I don’t really have any problem if they’re going to follow proper procedure,” said Smith. “But they didn’t and so they got sued. So, if they follow proper procedure and there is no basis for a lawsuit there probably won’t be a lawsuit.”

Meanwhile republicans in Wisconsin have continued their call for Congress to pass legislation settling the wolf issue once and for all. State Sen. Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, said he is optimistic about the federal action but concerned that environmental groups could sue to block it once again.

“It’s about time that they began that process,” said Tiffany. “It should have happened long ago and hopefully they’re successful but really what needs to happen here is what we’ve all been calling for. Congress needs to act.”

Tiffany said a good piece of legislation to remove federal protections for wolves would have to include a measure to block judicial review.