By Heidi Clausen, Regional Editor
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has renewed the push to delist the gray wolf by introducing a federal amendment that would give state wildlife officials the authority to manage wolf populations.
Johnson’s amendment to the Energy Policy Modernization Act instructs the federal Department of the Interior to reissue final rules related to the listing of the gray wolf in Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The Obama administration in 2011 determined that the embattled predator was no longer endangered in the western Great Lakes region; the Secretary of the Interior called the area’s wolf population “fully recovered and healthy.”
The gray wolf was removed from the Wisconsin endangered species list in 2004, and it was federally delisted in January 2012. In response to a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the 2012 decision in December 2014, returning wolves in the Great Lakes region to the Federal Endangered Species List.
Wisconsin had an estimated 746 wolves in 2015, according to the state Department of Natural Resources. That’s up from just 25 in 1980. Numbers dipped slightly as hunting and trapping resumed about four years ago but rebounded last year.
“It’s been well over a year since a liberal judge in Washington D.C. disregarded the science-based decision of President Obama’s own Department of Interior and returned the gray wolf to the endangered species list,” Johnson said. “But it is not endangered and hasn’t been for years. Scientists are clear that both individual animal and pack numbers are growing rapidly for the Great Lakes states.”
Johnson said he “strongly” agrees with state farmers, ranchers, loggers and sportsmen that future gray wolf listing decisions should come from “the experts, not from judges. Responsibility for wolf population management should be free from political intrusion and returned to state wildlife management authorities.”