March 28, 2022

CSF, Partners Urge DOI to Support State Wildlife Management of Gray Wolves

Why it matters: Success of the Endangered Species Act is often dependent on widespread coordination across federal and state government, landowners, and NGOs. In the case of the gray wolf, federal agencies – working in partnership with states, non-governmental organizations, private landowners, and others – have used sound science to determine that decades of work to develop and successfully implement recovery plans that ensure the long-term viability of the species in accordance with the requirements of the ESA. Given the time, resources, and expertise applied to recovery, failing to return the gray wolf to state management as a recovered species would raise serious questions about the effectiveness of the ESA, especially if the failure is based on technical Court decisions.

On March 21, CSF and more than 25 of the leading hunting-conservation organizations sent a letter to the Department of the Interior urging the Department to appeal a recent Court decision that vacates a 2020 rule removing the gray wolf from the ESA.

In 2020, the Department of the Interior announced a decision to delist gray wolves across the lower 48 states. Fast forward to February 10, 2022, a District Court in California vacated the 2020 rule removing the gray wolf from the ESA. The arguments presented in Court prevailed because wolves were originally listed on the ESA across the lower 48 states, despite the fact that wolves did not inhabit – and will never habitat – all of the lower 48 states. This ruling is purely technical in nature and does not account for the successful recovery of the gray wolf.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the primary federal agency dedicated to overseeing the ESA, the purpose of the ESA is to “protect endangered and threatened species, and then pursue their recovery and conserve candidate species and species-at-risk so that listing under the ESA is not necessary.” After these objectives have been achieved, the logical next step is to return the authority to manage recovered species to state fish and wildlife agencies that are largely responsible for increasing wildlife populations across the country for the past century.

Through various legislative actions and regulatory processes, states have demonstrated a commitment to long-term, ongoing wolf recovery and conservation. In Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming where wolves have been removed from the Endangered Species List, state wildlife managers have successfully maintained populations well above the minimums identified in Service-approved wolf recovery and management plans since de-listing.

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation will continue to urge the Department of the Interior to support state wildlife management authority and will support scientific driven efforts to delist the gray wolf.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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